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Fingernail Testing – Drug Testing Manicure

What Is Fingernail Testing?


Fingernail drug testing is a great alternative to other testing methods. Just like the rings on a tree can reveal the age of the tree and the climate conditions in which it grew, fingernails on humans can tell the history of drug use in much the same way. When a drug enters the bloodstream its chemicals are carried through the body and absorbed into the keratin fibers that make up fingernails, toenails, and hair

Fingernails are 4 times thicker than a strand of hair and capture more of the substance than hair does; however, fingernail testing cannot show patterns of substance abuse like hair drug testing can. It only indicates that the substance was used, not when.

The detection window is dependent upon the length of the clipping, most common is 3-6 months, but up to 12 months is possible. Nail and hair testing is considered lifestyle testing and not appropriate for one-off drug or alcohol use. 

Clipping fingernails is something everyone is familiar with so the collection of fingernails for drug testing purposes is easily explained and then observed by the collector making it impossible to cheat. Clippings about 1-2 mm from all ten fingers will provide an ideal amount for screening and confirmation.

Collector clips fingernails for a fingernail drug test for Butterfield Onsite Drug Testing

Benefits Of Fingernail Drug Testing

Fingernail drug testing has one of the longest detection windows of any test. If you want to know if illegal drugs were used within a few days then a good choice is a urine test. But if you are more interested if an employee has a history of drug abuse, then a fingernail test is the best testing method to use.

Hair follicle testing subjects may not want to risk having their hairstyles get ruined but employers may still want that longer detection window that comes with hair testing. Fingernail testing has a longer detection window but the collection samples are not as noticeable and it’s also less risky to mess up someone’s appearance.

Stopwatch representing how long it takes to do a drug test.

How long does it take to do a fingernail test?


About 10 Min.

Verified results for how long it takes to receive results for a drug test.

How long does it take to get results for a fingernail drug test?


3-5 Days

Calendar representing how long a drug test's detection window is.

Detection Window Period


6 to 12 Months


Fingernails have a detection window of 6 months. Toenails have a window of about year.

How A Fingernail Drug Test Is Done

Fingernail Drug Testing Sample

Step 1

First, the subject comes in and fills out paperwork. Afterwards, the collector explains instructions for the fingernail test.

Step 2


The collector preps sterilized nail clippers and provides them for the subject to use.

Step 3


Collector instructs the subject to assure that enough clipping is collected. Then the collector observes the clippings to make sure they come from the subject.

Step 4


Next, the collector seals the specimen and sends it to the lab to be analyzed.

Step 5

Results are delivered in 3-5 days.

Things To Know About Fingernail Testing


When a fingernail or toenail collection is done, it is required that the individual shows up with clean nails, free of nail polish, and not having been trimmed for at least 2 weeks. One sufficient sample for a fingernail drug test will essentially consist of the clippings of all 10 fingernails OR all 10 of their toenails.

Fingernail testing is a great alternative to urine or oral fluid testing. This type of testing is available at our collection site and onsite testing. Call us today to learn more about our testing services and how we can help you maintain a drug-free workplace.