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Hair Analysis

How It Is Done

Hair analysis is done by collecting a hair sample and sending it to a laboratory. If a DNA test is done on the hair, then the hair collected needs to have the root attached.

Hair samples are taken from a specific part of the body, such as from the back of the scalp by the neck or from the pubic area. Hair samples are generally collected from the section of the hair closest to the skin. Hair close to the skin or scalp includes the most recent growth, which provides the most accurate information about what has occurred recently in the body.

Hair samples are washed in special chemicals before testing.

DNA profiles

Hair samples for DNA analysis will be gathered by laboratory personnel or law enforcement officials or a forensic examiner. For DNA testing, the hair must include the root. This requires that the hair be plucked, not cut.

Heavy metal analysis

If you are collecting your own hair sample, follow the instructions given to you by the laboratory. In general, you will be asked to:

  • Clip a small sample of your hair (usually about a spoonful) from the nape of your neck. The sample should be 1 in. (2.5 cm) to 1.5 in. (4 cm) long and should include the new growth closest to the scalp.
  • Put the clippings in a plastic bag and seal it.
  • Send the samples to the laboratory along with information about the type of hair treatments you have used, including shampoos, conditioners, colorings, bleaches, and permanents. Information about your age, height, weight, sex, and whether you smoke may also be requested by the laboratory.

How It Feels

There is generally no pain or discomfort associated with this test. But if you have to pluck a hair for a DNA test, this may cause some minor discomfort.


Hair analysis itself has no risks or complications.


Hair analysis uses samples of hair for DNA analysis or to look for heavy metals, such as lead or arsenic.

Heavy metal analysis

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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