For many of us, our hair is a defining feature. It can be the thing that makes us feel bold, edgy, or even what we hide behind when we're feeling insecure. No matter what attachment we have to it, it's important to remember, at the end of the day, hair is just hair. It doesn't have to be the thing that makes us feel beautiful or not. For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, this is a lesson that often has to be learned before being ready or willing — an especially hard thing when our whole lives are so wrapped up in, well, hair.
One artist named Sarah Walters is employing an ancient practice to help ease patients into physically and emotionally letting go of their locks.
Walters is working to help cancer patients reclaim their beauty by giving them henna crowns.
If you've ever seen a henna tattoo, then you know the beautiful patters created by the dried, ground henna paste are hard to look away from. The patterns are easy to get lost in not only because of the amazing aesthetic, but because of the long history of culture and tradition they represent.
Henna tattooing has been in practice for thousands of years, particularly in Arab and Indian communities, and it has been said that even Cleopatra and the Ancient Egyptians employed the practice. One of the most common forms is Mehndi, the art of decorating the feet and hands, and is traditionally used for significant occasions or celebrations, such as weddings. Each design can have its own meaning and significance.
Walters mastered the traditional technique back in 2008 and now runs her own business, SARAHENNA. She told A Plus via email, that she has always been passionate about wanting to give back and helping others.
"When my stepdad passed away from multiple myeloma (a rare cancer of the plasma cells) in 2004, I remember my feeling of helplessness," she wrote, "It reinforced my desire to help people, and now with more of a focus on those who are fighting cancer."
In 2010, Walters' mom asked her if she would create a henna crown for a friend who was receiving chemotherapy treatment. Walters explained that this was the moment she realized she wanted to continue helping others in a similar way.
"I was excited for the opportunity! After that, I knew I wanted to make [the crowns] accessible to anyone and everyone who had lost their hair during chemo. "
Walters now permanently offers henna crowns to clients. She creates one-of-a-kind crowns for each customer based on any inspiration photos they bring and/or their personalities. Walters is also mindful of the the cancer patients' treatment so she only uses completely plant-based henna.
Best of all, SARAHENNA offers its crowns by donation so they're accessible to any who want them.
Walters states that the henna crowns have a transformative effect on the wearers, "My clients are always so excited when they first see their finished henna crown. They tell me that they feel beautiful, and can't wait to share it with their families and friends."
One person wrote on the SARAHENNA website, "Thank you again for giving me such an incredible gift. I feel like a walking work of art! We so enjoyed getting to know you. You are an amazing artist and such a gracious person."
Walters hopes that the crowns have a positive impact on all her clients, "I hope that my henna crowns give cancer fighters a reprieve from a stressful time in their lives. I hope they feel beautiful and loved."