Coloring, bleaching, and perming: influence on EtG content in hair

Ther Drug Monit. 2013 Aug;35(4):527-9. doi: 10.1097/FTD.0b013e31828ca246.


Background: Hair analysis of ethyl glucuronide (EtG) has become, beside fatty acid ethyl ester, a valuable marker for the detection of moderate and chronic excessive alcohol consumption. So far, only few studies exist about the influence of cosmetic treatment on EtG content in hair. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of coloring, bleaching, and perming on the concentration of this alcohol marker in hair. Studies were also performed to evaluate the chemical stability of EtG in the presence of hydrogen peroxide and ammonium thioglycolate.

Methods: Six air samples were treated in vitro by the different commercial cosmetics following the suppliers' instructions. After washing, pulverization, incubation in ultrasonic bath, and solid phase extraction, EtG was determined by GC/MS-NICI after solid phase extraction and heptafluorobutyric anhydride derivatization.

Results: The results showed that samples (n = 10) treated with the coloring product did not show any important change in the EtG results. In the bleaching study (n = 23), a mean decrease of 73.5% was observed. After incubation of a solution of EtG with hydrogen peroxide (15%), a decrease of 45% was shown supporting the hypothesis of a chemical degradation of EtG and a leaching out effect from the hair matrix. In the perm treatment study (n = 23), a mean decrease of 95.7% of EtG was found. Incubation of a solution of EtG with ammonium thioglycolate (5%) showed a total decrease of EtG supporting the hypothesis of a chemical degradation.

Conclusions: Coloring treatment did not importantly influence EtG content in hair. However, an important decrease of EtG in hair could be found after bleaching and permanent wave treatment. This decrease seems to be because of a chemical degradation of EtG, after bleaching, and a leaching out effect from the matrix. After perming, it seems to be more of a chemical degradation of EtG. These data have to be considered for the correct interpretation of EtG amounts in hair.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism
  • Alcoholism / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / chemistry
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Ethanol / chemistry*
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucuronates / chemistry*
  • Glucuronates / metabolism
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Hair / drug effects*
  • Hair / metabolism
  • Hair Dyes / chemistry
  • Hair Dyes / pharmacology*
  • Hair Preparations / chemistry
  • Hair Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Thioglycolates / chemistry
  • Thioglycolates / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers
  • Glucuronates
  • Hair Dyes
  • Hair Preparations
  • Thioglycolates
  • ethyl glucuronide
  • Ethanol
  • 2-mercaptoacetate
  • Hydrogen Peroxide