Crowning glory helps Trish regain confidence

Shellharbour's Trish Taylor received a henna crown by Dapto henna artist Ellen Jaye Benson. Ms Taylor says it has given her a much-needed boost. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Shellharbour's Trish Taylor received a henna crown by Dapto henna artist Ellen Jaye Benson. Ms Taylor says it has given her a much-needed boost. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

A henna crown has given Shellharbour breast cancer sufferer Trish Taylor the confidence to be bald.

Six months of chemotherapy stole her hair - and with it some of her confidence. But having a pretty floral design painted in henna paste over her scalp on Monday gave her a much-needed boost.

The 56-year-old said the temporary tattoo, gifted to her by Dapto henna artist Ellen Jaye Benson of Henna Harpy, was empowering.

"You know your hair is going to fall out with chemotherapy but it still comes as a bit of a shock," Ms Taylor said. "I had a good head of hair and I don't feel as feminine without it.

"I'm not confident enough and I don't have the self-esteem to go around with a bald head. Plus I think other people feel uncomfortable or awkward with it so I have been covering it up.

"But wigs feel uncomfortable and not real so I wanted something that would feel comfortable and which I could have a bit of fun with too."

Temporary henna crowns are popular in the US for cancer patients and are starting to catch on in Australia.

It's the first henna crown Ms Benson has created, although she has done other customised designs for people at significant times in their lives.

"I like making henna designs for personal rites of passage - such as on pregnant women's bellies as a baby blessing or by creating a 'memento mori' for someone to remember a loved one," she said.

"There's a magic in the process of working with henna and I love meeting people, hearing their stories and creating a wonderful, memorable experience for them."

Ms Benson offers a "suspended henna" service on Henna Harpy's Facebook page, which allows people to donate to allow someone in need to get the experience.

"It allows people to 'pay it forward'," she said. "When I have enough suspended henna dollars I put out a call for people to inbox me their story and I can provide a free henna art therapy session for someone who needs it."

Ms Benson uses natural ingredients in her henna paste and recommends cancer patients and others with medical conditions consult with their specialists to put their minds at ease.

Application of a henna crown takes about two hours and the paste must stay on for 24 hours. After this it can be flaked off to reveal a russet brown coloured tattoo which lasts for up to three weeks.

Ms Taylor can't wait for her four adult children, and her family and friends, to see the finished product.

"I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer last September and telling my friends and family was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," she said.

"I've just finished chemotherapy, though I will need other treatment, and it's a great time to do something like this."

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