A single strand of hair contains a lot of information about a person. The base of each strand contains many tiny blood vessels that feed it.
During this time, the shaft of the hair absorbs chemicals from any drug you take. It also contains your body’s natural oils, sweat, and any toxins around you.
Hair analysis applies special techniques that examine your hair under a microscope.
The results of this analysis can show details about your habits and your health, though these vary depending on the lab.
What Is Hair Analysis
Hair analysis is a test or chemical analysis of a hair sample from a person, or even an animal.
It can also be referred to as microscopic comparison or analysis, and uses hair, typically from the back of the neck, to measure its mineral content.
Chemical hair analysis may be considered for review where urine and blood are no longer expected to contain particular contaminants, usually over a period of three months or less.
Traditionally, microscopic hair analysis has been used in forensics where analysts examine different hair characteristics under a microscope.
The hair under comparison is taken from a suspect or from a crime scene, and this technique is useful especially where the hairs don’t match.
Hair samples are tested using certain chemicals and a microscope is used to analyze the strands, while checking for any poisoning caused by metals, like mercury or lead.
In some countries, the reports from hair analysis are referred to as micrograms, where one test determines the values for many minerals at a go.
However, the usual growth process that hair takes, from a follicle in the skin, takes weeks for its sample to show bodily changes because hair ideally grows slowly.
This means that recent changes like drug use can’t be seen within the past few days.
A hair analysis could therefore show exposure to chemicals or drug use that happened over the last few months.
Hair Analysis Uses
According to experts, hair analysis is helpful when paired with other tests that don’t use hair and it can check for several things including but not limited to:
- Family links: Hair follicle analysis can sometimes show blood relations between different people.
- Drug use: As hair grows, some drugs stick to the strands and can’t be washed out. This is why it’s possible to know whether someone has been using hard drugs like cocaine, cannabis, opioids, and amphetamines. Unlike a urine test that reveals whether you’ve used drugs the past few days, hair analysis can show if you’ve used such substances over the past quarter or so.
- Some genetic disorders: Hair samples can diagnose some genetic disorders passed down in families such as the Fragile X syndrome.
- Alopecia: If your hair doesn’t grow as it should or you’re losing hair, a closer look can help your doctor determine the best treatment for you.
- Heavy metals: Hair that contains toxins, like arsenic or mercury, could lead to health problems – a hair analysis can rule this out.
- Forensics and police evidence: This helps to identify victims or suspects after a crime.
How Hair Analysis Is Done
Hair samples can be pulled up with the roots or cut from the scalp, depending on the purpose for which the analysis is being carried out.
Some tests need a lock of hair about three inches long, or where the hair is curly, a sample almost the size of a cotton ball will suffice. For other tests, hair that’s attached to the roots will be useful.
The hair follicle has the most amount of DNA, your unique genetic code.
This is why hair follicle test kits are able to help confirm paternity where samples from the presumed father and baby are available.
During hair analysis, the lab needs to have all the information including the shampoo or hair dyes you use, straighteners, and conditioners, among other things, as some ingredients could affect results.
The lab usually washes the sample to remove oil, sweat, skin cells, and other chemicals.
Sometimes they may grind the hair into a powder or cut it into pieces before they do chemical analysis, or examine it under a microscope.
Microscopic Hair Analysis
Also known as Trichology, this process involves the use of valuable evidence, like unknown hairs or fibers at crime scenes, to determine whether a suspect is guilty or innocent.
Microscopic hair analysis isn’t exact in itself; neither does it produce airtight evidence.
However, the technique can be very useful when used by experienced forensic scientists as a starting point to solve a crime. It can help determine the cause of death or even identify a person.
What Hair Samples Mean
Under a microscope, the appearance of various components of the hair shaft offers lots of information as to who it came from.
The hair shaft is composed of three layers:
- Cuticle or outer layer has overlapping scales with free ends. It can’t identify specific individuals, but can identify the hair species.
- Cortex, which is made up of elongated cells containing pigment granules, can also be examined under a microscope to compare the appearance of the granules that can tell the color of the hair.
- Medulla is composed mainly of air spaces and varies from one human race to another. It helps identify the origin of the person.
In forensics, three major types of hair analysis are performed to test the hair shaft for nutritional deficiencies or drugs, analyze DNA from the hair root, and determine if it’s from a person or animal.
Types Of Microscopes For Hair Analysis
There are two main types of microscopes for Hair Analysis. One is the stereo microscope and the compound microscope.
This is used for initial hair examination before moving to the compound microscope. It is ideal for viewing the external hair characteristics such as the shape, color, length, and texture.
Under this microscope, you can see the hair structure as a strand that seems to have tiny fragments and fibers on its surface, and you can differentiate the thickness between strands.
Stereo microscopes, or dissecting microscopes as they’re sometimes called, give an erect, 3D perspective.
They have low magnification power and use two eyepieces with two objectives to create depth perception.
The primary use of this microscope is to view large and solid specimens or surfaces with an important degree of precision.
They’re designed on two basic configurations and two basic groups:
- Greenough design for production processes to dissect specimens. It’s easy to use and maintain and allows selection of high apertures.
- Common Main Objective design (CMO) is used in research and development and offers high-resolution, plus it comes with illumination and optical accessories.
Both groups are available in the two configurations: fixed magnification or continuously variable zoom.
The latter is more versatile in stereo microscopy, but the task you want to use it for will determine which one you’ll pick.
This microscope has more than one lens: ocular lenses and objective lenses, and its own light source.
It is commonly used today and considered for a bright field microscope owing to its light source. This means it lights the specimen from below while you view it from above.
It is simple, convenient, and relatively small so it can be stored away easily. Its multiple lenses help reveal a lot of detail in samples that the naked eye would fail to explore.
You can view scales of the hair on the surface as irregular annular patterns that differ in appearance between human and animal hair.
We’ve looked at what hair analysis is, how it’s done, its various use cases, and the types of microscopes for hair analysis. Now let’s dive into the best microscopes you can use for hair analysis today.
Our list is a mix of both stereo and compound microscopes so you can pick the one that’s best suited to your needs.
This microscope has a binocular viewing head with an interpupillary range of 55-75mm, which allows for adjustment to your individual specifications.
Its magnification ranges from 20x, 40x, and 80x thanks to the WF10X and WF20x pieces together with the 2X and 4X subjective.
This means you get a longer working distance that’s helpful when inspecting large scale specimens.
The optical glass lenses offer sharp images as they’re highly coded to deliver high-resolution imagery.
This is important as you want to view the finer details of the hair under observation and effectively handle or manipulate it.
Dioptric adjustment is also possible allowing the microscope to accommodate individual differences in light strength.
Furthermore, you can use it with different eye visions as you view the hair specimen on the microscope comfortably.
Its versatile illumination also offers incident or top lighting, and bottom or transmitted illumination so you can choose whether light is shone down onto the image or through the frosted stage plate.
The frosted stage plate is used with lower transmitted lighting. Plus, the black and white reversible plate offers contrast with light and dark specimens when you use it with upper reflected lighting.
This makes it easier to use the microscope to observe light or dark-colored objects, and also enhances the contrast, regardless of the specimen’s color.
Other features include a spare bulb, pair of eye-guards, high quality original true color, and halogen light source.
- Quality build
- Objectives (2x and 4x) can be switched
- Easy to use and convenient
- Useful in several applications
- Versatile illumination
- 20x eyepiece optics can be dark
- Optics can be too bright causing distortion
- No light dimmer
This compound microscope offers great mechanics, optics, and illumination. It comes with several enhanced features and is easy to use, trouble free, and robustly built for convenience and comfort during use.
It’s compact in size and has a small footprint so it’s portable and easy to store, lift, or even move. Its EZlite LED illumination system is built to last, offering a cool white light for up to two decades.
This saves on the cost of replacing lamps while reducing energy consumption. It also prevents the specimen from getting too hot.
A 30-degree inclined, 360-degree swiveling binocular head is available for easy storage and shared viewing, regardless of which side users are seated.
Instead of turning the whole microscope, you can turn it to the direction of other users and view the specimen.
It also uses a Siedentopf head so the focus doesn’t change even if you adjust the interpupillary distance.
Its EZTube binocular head also has preset diopters for corrected vision, so it can be used with different eye visions.
A professional condenser system is also available and is pre-focused and pre-centered for maximizing illumination. It can also be adjusted based on the specimen and needs of the user.
A built-in mechanical stage with low position x/y control offers accurate movement of specimen at high magnification.
The coaxial focus mechanism is useful for intuitive control so you can control specimens easily.
Other features include a drop-in holder, mechanical stage, and adjustable Abbe condenser with magnification labels for optimal contrast.
- Excellent features
- Great viewing experience
- Easy to use
- LED light saves energy and lasts long
- Ideal for any type or level of user experience
- Latest technology incorporated in its optics, illumination, and mechanism
- Clear images
- May be difficult to get adequate parts support
This microscope comes with LED illumination and a digital camera.
Its construction and capabilities are top-notch at its price level, so it offers durability, convenience, and affordability in one microscope.
The images it delivers are bright and clear, while its controls are firm, and the slide holder and stage are easy to use and work with.
It features a built-in USB 3.0M camera with photo and video capability, which is good for group settings. The photos can be cropped, brightened, and saved easily too.
Other features include 4 achromatic objectives, double layer mechanical stage with coarse focus knobs and coaxial fine, and 2 pairs of ocular lenses WF10X/P20X.
This compound microscope is built with metal, and is compatible with Windows, Vista/XP/2000, and Windows 7. It also comes with a 5-year warranty and 14-day money-back guarantee.
- Bright and clear images
- Firm controls
- Easy to work with
- Simple assembly
- User friendly
- Doesn’t come with a manual
- Few reports about ocular lens image displaying crisper images than monitor
4. AmScope Biological Compound Microscope
This microscope is a professional grade tool useful in several applications including biological, technical/medical research, and pharmaceutical settings.
Its features include eight magnification settings, a binocular widefield sliding head, metal framework with fine focus and coaxial coarse, darkfield condenser, and Abbe condenser with iris diaphragm.
If you’ve used a microscope before, this one is a good choice for hair analysis. Although its learning curve is a bit steep, you can still use its online tutorials to learn more about its use.
For digital imaging capability, the microscope’s 40x-2000x magnification power offers impressive quality and clarity. You can see microscopic elements clearly and visibly, all at a reasonable price.
- Clear and precise images
- Great magnification power
- The learning curve is a bit steep
Using a microscope for hair analysis can be a fun and easy activity, whether you’re a professional scientist or just a student learning more about hair.
You can view and study different types of hair and identify them based on their structure, to determine if it’s human or animal hair, healthy, or even mistreated.
Whatever the case, these best microscopes for hair analysis will get you started with your project, and provide you with the tools you need to conduct your hair analysis.
Before you settle on one, be sure to research it thoroughly and find out if it’s suited to your needs.
Elsie started off as a freelance business and tech journalist. Having written for publications like Lifewire, and WindowsReport, she has garnered immense exposure over the years. She is a certified social media expert with deep interest in internet marketing, ecommerce and information technology.