Can You Do a Paternity Test with Hair?

A DNA test is a reliable method often used to determine biological parentage. In most cases, DNA samples are collected from saliva or blood. However, one of the most common questions that people ask is: Can hair samples be used for DNA paternity testing? Well, let’s dig deeper and find out if you can do a conclusive DNA test using hair — and everything you need to know.DNA test using hair illustrations

Can You Collect Hair for a DNA Test?

It’s possible to do a DNA test with hair — but you need to collect the hair root since it contains nucleated cells necessary for accurate results. However, forensic analysts can also use strands of hair without the roots to conduct a DNA test but it’s too expensive to be practical.

Besides that, you need at least six to eight hair strands with roots to have a conclusive report. This is because one hair strand may not be enough for the paternity test and it can get damaged during the process. But on the bright side, hair DNA samples can last longer than blood or cheek swabs if preserved under ideal conditions.

What are the Limitations of Using Hair for DNA Testing?

Less Accuracy

Hair is not the most accurate source for paternity testing when compared to saliva or blood samples. In fact, because obtaining sufficient DNA using hair is challenging, the average success rate is around 60%.
Due to these accuracy limitations, we have a strict policy against using hair samples — unless the subject is deceased.

Risk of contamination

Hair contamination can compromise the reliability of the paternity results. For instance, if you’ve recently dyed your hair, it may affect the accuracy of the DNA result, especially if you’re not using the hair follicle.

Be that as it may, the best way to avoid contamination is to collect fresh hair strands and store them in a clean, dry, and airtight bag at room temperature. This helps to prevent moisture from compromising the hair sample and degrading the DNA. You should also label the bag to prevent any mix-ups.

Higher Cost

Paternity tests conducted using hair strands tend to be more expensive compared to tests using cheek swabs or blood samples. This is due to the additional complexity involved in extracting DNA from hair. Most succinctly, the average cost of using hair to do a paternity test is between $650 to $2,000, depending on the specific requirements of the test.

Using Hair Samples for a DNA Test Should be a Last Resort

Because using hair samples to conduct a paternity test is less reliable than relying on cheek swabs or blood samples, we don’t recommend it unless the person is deceased. Besides that, it’s more expensive compared to other methods. However, if you store hair samples in the right conditions, they can outlast blood or cheek swabs.