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5 min read

Stunning Henna Crowns Empower People Who Lost Their Hair

Stunning Henna Crowns Empower People Who Lost Their Hair

One of the most devastating side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. Although, cancer patients are overwhelmed by the emotional and the physical difficulties of the disease, losing hair can also be a difficult side effect to cope with. However, with the help of one charitable henna artist, some patients are taking back their power.

Henna Heals is a nonprofit organization that was founded by Frances Darwin in Toronto Canada. The team connects henna artists to those people who have lost hair. They offer beautiful designs that are applied to the scalp of cancer patients using naturally sourced henna. The temporary henna crowns transform the heads of cancer and genetic alopecia patients.

The artists are advised to use 100% natural homemade henna, derived from a plant that grows in the tropical areas of the world. The henna leaves are dried and crushed to form a paste that is later used as henna. It has been utilized in the past to dye hair, skin, and fabric.

When the natural henna paste is first applied, it is dark brown. After drying, the henna deposits a light orange color on the skin and later darkens turning into terra cotta color. The head crown, which takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete, lasts for up to three weeks on the skin, depending on how your skin exfoliates.

Frances Darwin, a photographer, was motivated to start her business when she first saw how the henna crowns were transforming lives. She witnessed how these patients' confidence and happiness was being reinstated by these intricate designs. It began when she visited San Francisco to meet with a henna artist.

She was there for a photo shoot with pregnant women who had received henna designs on their bellies. During a break from shooting, the henna artist mentioned that she also created henna designs on the heads of cancer patients and Darwin immediately inquired about who, of her clients with cancer, might be willing to sit in front of her camera.

The artist connected her with a breast cancer patient whose head was entirely designed with a henna crown. As she was taking the pictures, the woman stated that she had never felt so attractive. In our society, people believe that when you are photographed, you are typically beautiful or famous; as such this made the woman feel more desirable. The henna crown on her head made her feel inspired and empowered and so Darwin made it his mission to photograph these women to give them back their confidence.

Typically, the henna artist uses this kind of design on hands and arms; only a few artists had the experience of working on heads. Another challenge was ensuring that the artists used 100% safe, natural ingredients to make a henna paste. She advised against using black henna which contains unsafe ingredients that are harmful to our health.


Darwin recruited renowned artists and trained them to work with people who have suffered hair loss and that is how Henna Heals started offering women henna head designs. With about 20 henna crowns so far, the majority of them being women, Henna Heals is off to a good start. Darwin hopes to introduce the idea to kids and men in the near future.

After undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy, Mayall, a 51-year-old ovarian cancer patient and one of Darwin's first subjects, chose to do away with wigs and hats that she used to wear to cover her bald. Mayall said getting the henna design seemed like a way of the telling the world “look I have cancer, but I can still take control over my life while still having fun.” 

The reactions of strangers are what surprised her the most. The henna crown seemed to make her approachable to people who were affected by cancer either directly or indirectly. People were willing to share their personal stories with her which made her feel good about herself. “I think people appreciate me more because I do not hide my sickness or my baldness,” she stated. She felt that her $100 investment was an empowering and bold way to approach hair loss.

Kathleen Gill-Bazazi, the general manager of the images oncology boutique at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, thinks henna is an excellent option to help cancer patients cope with hair loss. For almost two decades, she has been helping women with wigs after losing their hair. They tell her that losing their hair is one of the most traumatic parts of cancer treatment.

"For women, losing hair is even tougher than even coping with the disease itself," said Gill-Bazazi, "and as long as the henna crown does not have adverse effects on the patient or the doctors have no problem with it, the henna helps to improve the cancer patient’s wellness."

“For cancer and alopecia patients, henna crowns arts are a healing experience,” Darwin concludes. The process helps them to reclaim part of themselves and he is so grateful to be a part of that process.

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    At Hair La Vie, we know that your hair is an integral part of how you present yourself to the world and shape your authentic style.

    Join our private Facebook Community for a safe, human-moderated space to share your Hair Journey, discover new natural beauty, and take steps towards becoming “you” with the help of an understanding, supportive community.

    Join now for instant access to livestreams, discussions, and exclusive access to new products!

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