The existing data provide information on hair essential and toxic trace element content, whereas data on ultra-trace and rare elements are scarce. Therefore, the primary aim of the current study was to estimate hair levels and reference values of hair rare metal content using IUPAC recommendations in 2593 occupationally non-exposed adults living in Moscow and Novosibirsk (1900 women and 693 men). Hair Ag, Au, Ga, Ge, La, Rb, Tl, W and Zr content was assessed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry with NexION 300D. Women were characterised by significantly higher hair Ag and Au levels than men, whereas men had increased La, Rb, Tl, W and Zr content as compared to women. Moscow inhabitants were characterised by significantly higher hair Au and Ge, and lower hair Ga, La, Rb, Tl, W and Zr content as compared to the ones from Novosibirsk. The coverage intervals of Ag, Au, Ga, Ge, La, Rb, Tl, W and Zr content in hair of the general sample of examinees calculated in accordance with IUPAC recommendations were 0.0278–0.2994, 0.0159–0.1812, 0.0062–0.0348, 0.0022–0.0066, 0.0023–0.0205, 0.0226–0.2083, 0.0002–0.0008, 0.0022–0.0120 and 0.0389–0.3521 μg/g, respectively. The obtained data indicate that both gender and geographical location affect hair rare metal content in adults. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.