Hair Mineral Analysis

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-24 (EDT)

See Also Lab Tests

Hair is considered more of an excretory tissue than a functional tissue. Thus hair mineral analysis provides vital and inexpensive information on the excess, deficiency, or maldistribution of elements.

Research indicates that scalp hair element levels are related to human systemic levels. The strength of this relationship varies for specific elements. Hair is often the tissue of choice for toxic and several nutrient elements. Unlike blood, hair element levels are not regulated by homeostatic mechanisms. Thus, deviations in hair element levels often appear prior to overt symptoms and can thereby be a valuable preliminary tool for predicting the development of physiological abnormalities.

Along with symptoms and other laboratory values, this test can also assist in the early diagnosis of psychological disorders associated with aberrations in essential and toxic element metabolism. Despite its efficacy in providing useful information, this test should not be considered a stand-alone diagnostic test for essential element function and should be used in conjunction with patient symptoms and other laboratory tests.[1]


  • Since portein is synthesized in the hair follicle, elements are deposited permanently into the hair with no further exchange with other tissues.
  • Scalp hair is easy to sample and grows an average of one to two cm per month, which allows it to contain a "temporal record" of element metabolism and exposure to toxic elements.
  • Toxic elements may be 200-300 times more highly concentrated in the hair than in blood or urine.
  • Hair is mainly selected as the tissue of choice for detection of recent exposure of elements such as arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, lead, antimony, and mercury.
  • Hair mercury levels are often valued as a maternal and infant marker for exposure to neurotoxic methylmercury from fish.
  • As hair is vulnerable to external environmental contamination by certain shampoos, bleaches, dyes, and curing or straightening treatments, the first step in the interpretation of hair mineral analysis is to rule out these sources of external contamination.

Patient Preparation

  • Testing needs to be done at least 3 weeks, preferably 6 weeks after dying, bleaching or colouring the hair.
  • Primarily hair from the head is used, but pubic hair or body hair can be used if required.
  • The amount of hair varies based on the lab, but generally speaking about 0.25 grams of hair is required for the test.
  • Hair cut from the back of the head, close to the scalp is preferred as it represents the new growth and will give the most accurate reading to determine current levels of both heavy metals and/or essential elements.
  • Hair samples typically are not required to be refrigerated or frozen prior to testing. Samples are generally mailed directly to the lab doing the testing.

Clinical Implications

Hair mineral analysis is used to measure total body burden of environmental toxins and the physiological level of several nutrient elements. Generally speaking, any toxic elements that show up high in the hair indicate high levels in the body. The interpretation of nutritional elements is not as straight forward. High levels of some nutritional elements, such as zinc can actually indicate low levels in the body. The high levels may indicate that the element is being excreted due to its association with a heavy metal or metabolic imbalance.

Most labs provide a detailed report with the hair mineral analysis that will assist in understanding the significance of the individual elements. For assistance in understanding a report talk to your naturopathic doctor.

The toxic elements and essential elements tested in a hair mineral analysis varies by lab. Typically the following elements are included:

  • Toxic Elements
  • Essential Elements

Associated Tests

Other testing that may be ordered to assess for nutritional levels or heavy metal exposure include:


  1. Hair Elements. Doctor's Data, Inc