How To Pass A Hair Follicle Drug Test
It’ll take some creativity and luck to pass a hair follicle drug test.
Adam DrurybyAdam Drury
December 2, 2019
9 minute read
How To Pass A Hair Follicle Drug Test
Recent statistics show that a whopping seven percent of U.S. workers have failed their hair follicle drug test because the consumer cannabis. And these weren’t one-off, occasional smokers who were victims of bad timing. People who fail hair tests do so because they’re habitual users. That is, after all, what the test detects. Unlike urine tests, which look for recent drug use, hair follicle tests look for habitual, regular consumption. And this is the hard truth: consuming cannabis with any kind of regularity makes it virtually impossible to pass a hair follicle drug test. Nevertheless, there are strategies you can use to increase your odds of passing. And knowing how to pass a hair follicle drug test for weed means knowing how the test—and your hair—actually works.
If you’ve been surprised with a random hair follicle drug test at work, you’re probably wondering if there are any immediate solutions to your predicament. And if you’re asking, how do I pass a hair follicle drug test in 24 hours, you’re probably reading this information with a real sense of urgency. So we won’t bog you down with technical stuff: there’s plenty of information about how the test works and how weed works its way into your hair below.
For now, you just need a simple answer, and here it is: you probably won’t be able to pass your hair follicle drug test in 24 hours if you’ve been smoking weed with any regularity. Let’s double check that math.
Hair follicle tests procedures generally only look at the first 1.5 inches of hair, measured from your scalp. That 1.5 inches provides about a 90 day window into your weed habits, based on how fast human hair grows. So if you’ve smoked weed regularly in the past three months, you’re very likely going to fail the test.
However, and this is a huge however, if you’ve only smoked weed in the past week after not smoking for 90 days, you’re probably going to be fine. It takes five to 10 days for THC to bind to your hair and grow out of your scalp.
You’ll also be okay if your cannabis use over the past 90 days has been very limited. Hair follicle tests are sensitive, but not that sensitive. So if you haven’t been consuming cannabis regularly—say just a handful of times in three months—THC probably won’t show up in your hair.
Finally, if you’re looking at just a 24 hour window, don’t do anything drastic. Shaving your head seems like a good idea, but testers will just take hair from elsewhere on your body. And since that hair grows more slowly, you’ll actually decrease your chances of passing the hair follicle drug test. As a last-ditch effort, you could shave your whole body. Sure, that could raise a few eyebrows—on the people who still have them at least. But you can’t fail a test you can’t take!
Hopefully, you’ll have more than a 24 hour window to figure out a strategy for passing your hair follicle drug test. And if you do, we’ve got all the information you’ll need to give yourself your best chance at passing.
What Is Weed Doing In My Hair?
First of all, what is weed doing in your hair in the first place? Your body reacts to THC and other cannabinoids in complex ways. And the net result is that THC and other cannabinoids, along with their metabolic byproducts, end up scattered throughout the various systems of the body.
Weed ends up in your hair, or more accurately your hair follicle, via your bloodstream. And that’s actually something pretty interesting. Signs of cannabis use can stay in your hair for incredibly long amounts of time. But weed only stays in the blood for a very short time. Basically, as long as you’re high.
The body rapidly breaks down (i.e. metabolizes) the cannabinoids in the blood. But before that happens, cannabinoids bind to the sheath of tissue and cells surrounding the root of your hair. This is all happening underneath the surface of your scalp, of course, but soon enough the cannabinoids will become incorporated into the follicle and from there, the hair strand itself.
Finally, somewhere between five and 10 days, that weed-infused hair will pop out of the top of your head. An involuntary narc that could rat you out at any moment. And that’s what makes it so hard to spoof a hair follicle drug test. It takes just the tiniest amount of THC to trigger a positive on the test: one picogram per milligram, to be exact. A picogram, for those keeping score at home, is 0.000000000001 grams.
How Long Does Weed Stay In My Hair?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is more bad news. Once cannabinoids incorporate themselves into your hair strands, they are there until your hair falls out or you cut it off. Nothing can change this fact. It’s pretty unreal how long evidence of drug use can stay in human hair.
According to a 2004 paper in Forensic Science International, researchers detected traces of opiates in the hairs of English Romantic poet John Keats—167 years after his death. The same researchers found cocaine metabolites in the hair of thousand-year-old mummies in Peru and Chile. So yeah. A long time.
Actually, calling it a hair follicle drug test is kind of a misnomer. Sure, the test is looking for evidence that THC was in the subject’s blood by detecting the presence of the illicit cannabinoid in the cells and fatty tissue of the follicle, but a hair follicle drug test doesn’t assay the follicle per se.
Instead, it tests for THC in the hair strand itself. A positive detection in the strand necessarily implies the drug’s presence in the follicle and, ipso facto, the subject’s bloodstream, which indicates that the subject consumed cannabis.
So technicians are interested in collecting your hair, not your hair follicles. It goes without saying that hair closer to the scalp is the newest growth and would indicate more recent marijuana use.
That’s why technicians cut about 100 strands of hair and lop off everything but the 1.5 inches of hair closest to the follicle. On average, human hair grows at the rate of about 0.5 inches per month. So 1.5 inches amounts to roughly a 90-day detection time window.
If you’ve smoked weed fairly regularly during the known detection times, your hair will test positive. And that’s the key to understanding how to pass a hair follicle drug test. Once you understand that this 1.5 inches of hair is a kind of timeline of your marijuana use over the past three months, you can devise ways to game the test and reduce your chances of failing.
How Do I Pass a Hair Follicle Drug Test?
Hopefully, you have some advance warning of an impending hair follicle drug test, giving you some time to prepare. If you’re unlucky enough to have one sprung on you at work, it’s probably time to start updating that resume. Here are the key things to keep in mind.
First, if you’ve only smoked recently, you’ll be in the clear. In fact, you could take down bong after bong on the eve of a hair test and not worry about a thing. Remember, it takes five to 10 days for “contaminated” hair to break through to the surface of your scalp. A urine drug test, on the other hand, would detect recent marijuana consumption.
If you’ve only smoked a few times in the past 90 days, your chances of passing are also looking good. Even though a hair follicle drug test for weed is extremely sensitive, only regular marijuana use will put enough THC in your hair to trigger a positive.
Ultimately, passing a hair follicle test is primarily a question of timing. And if you have an advanced enough warning, you can switch to abstinence mode and not smoke (or eat!) weed for 90 days. Yeah, that sucks. But it probably won’t suck as bad as losing your job.
What’s frustrating is that newer research into hair analysis for cannabinoids is throwing into question much of the established doctrine about follicle tests. One 2015 study suggests that something as innocuous as environmental contact with cannabis plants or smoke can deposit traces of THC in hair.
So just being around someone who’s handling or smoking weed could make you fail a follicle test. Hopefully, further research will demonstrate the unreliability of these hard-to-pass tests and lead fewer employers to adopt them.
Until employers drop hair follicle testing, however, no amount of research is going to save you. So how do you actually pass this test? The only surefire way is to cease consuming cannabis entirely for 100 days. If you do that, you won’t even have to cut your hair, because testers will typically analyze just the first 1.5 inches from your scalp. And if you’ve truly stopped consuming cannabis in that time, there won’t be any THC in that segment of your hair.
If you can’t, won’t or are unable to go the abstinence route, you’re second plan of action needs to be ruining the results of the test itself. And you can do that, possibly, with the right products for your hair.
Without buying specialized products, bleaching and dying your hair might damage the hair strands enough to make it difficult for the test to detect THC metabolites. The more times you’re able to bleach and dye your hair before taking the hair follicle drug test, the better chance you’ll have at making the actual hair strands unusable for the tester.
Recommended Products to Help You Pass Your Hair Follicle Drug Test
You’ll see plenty of products marketed as hair “cleansers” and “detox” solutions. But that’s not exactly what these products do. Once THC metabolites bind to your hair, they’re there. All you can really do is block the test’s ability to detect them. And that involves using a product that “seals” your hair strands and prevents the test’s chemicals from reacting with the THC in your hair.
The STAT! Hair Cleansing Kit and Zydot Ultra Clean Shampoo are examples of such products. And you should use these “detox” shampoos on the day of your test, right before you go in. These products, like many similar hair detoxes, say they “purify” or “cleanse” or “remove” the drug compounds from your hair. But really, they seal up your hair so the test can’t detect them.
Most products like this have three separate steps. First, you shampoo your hair to remove anything from the surface of your strands, like weed smoke or other contaminants that could make you fail your test. Second, you use a “purifier” which coats your hair with a chemical residue designed to block the test from actually working on the hair the tester takes.
But that stuff will make your hair look dull and, frankly, suspicious to a drug tester. That’s why you need the third step, a “conditioner” that won’t remove the chemical seal from your hair but will make your hair look more natural and less suspicious.
Remember, you have to use shampoos and “cleaners” like this on the day of your test, ideally right before you go in to provide your hair sample. The protection they provide won’t last more than a day, if that. So timing is everything here.
The fact remains, however, that hair follicle drug tests are hard to trick. That’s why so many employers use them and so many people get busted by them. But that hasn’t stopped people from attempting to pass the test through some creative chicanery. Unfortunately, most of these tricks don’t work, and some of them can hurt your dignity.
The most common of these approaches? Shaving one’s head. Haha, you think. Try to test me now! It’s an approach that’s more of a possibility for people for whom being bald might not totally ruin their look. But a shaved head won’t stymie a technician. They’ll just take a hair from your body. Probably your armpit or chest. And since body hair grows at a much slower rate and replaces itself much less often than head hair, your chances of passing the test go way down.
So unless you’re willing to shave down entirely—not suspicious at all, is it?—this tactic is a dead end. Never mind the fact that you’d have to keep shaving all your hair until you’ve been weed-free for 90 days.
Another common approach is described in more detail above. Bleaching or dying your hair, or trying to cleanse it with special shampoos, gels or other hair products. Seems like it should work. Destroy your hair enough and it’s no longer a viable sample, right?
Well, the companies who administer these tests have a financial interest in researching such methods. And according to researchers with one of the country’s largest diagnostic companies, Quest Diagnostics, hair treatments have little effect on hair follicle drug test results. (They would say that, wouldn’t they?)
Remember, it’s that cat and mouse game. Try to find newer, updated products that are a step ahead of the test. Look for the most recent reviews you can find to determine if the product actually works or doesn’t.
This last trick is bold. It’s daring. And that’s what could make it actually work. If you could somehow get the technician to take a sample of hair that was THC-free, say by using a hairpiece or hair extensions, you would pass.
As long as the technician didn’t realize they were taking a sample of hair that wasn’t your own—and remember, they’re trained to check for that kind of thing—you could potentially sneak through.
Indeed, if you’re wondering how to pass a hair follicle drug test without having to drop your weed regimen, it’ll take some creativity and some luck. Otherwise, a hair test will bust you.