Long revered for his hairdo know-how, Shami, a 27-year Woodlands resident, has also used his business, CHI hair products, to exercise environmental savvy and emphasize international peace. Clients and protégés know him as a man who can wield a comb with emphatic expertise. Most consumers know him as the inventor of CHI hair color, blow dryers and flat irons, which are high-dollar items in salons across the country.
But Shami didn’t always believe he’d be able to make a living doing ‘dos. Before moving to Montgomery County, he worked as a colorist in Lafayette, La., when he began noticing his skin reacting to the harsh chemicals in hair color. Once he realized he was allergic to ammonia, one of the primary chemicals in dye, Shami was faced with a decision that could potentially debilitate his career: quit his passion or forge ahead, damaging his skin.
“When I became allergic, everyone said, ‘You can’t do hair color without ammonia,'” Shami said, remembering that trying time.
In the late 1970s, he chose to leave the industry and moved to Houston to work in real estate.
But Shami was reluctant to give up on his dream, and through solid research and strong will, he was able to invent and patent a line of ammonia-free hair color – the first of its kind.
“When I made the product it was for me,” he said. “Then I found that lots of hair dressers are allergic to ammonia. They kept asking for products, and we eventually became a company.”
Calling it “an issue of supply and demand,” Shami said his business quickly took off.
“I didn’t have any intention of becoming a manufacturer,” he confessed. “I was forced into it.”
Since then, Shami and his team have invented shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, flat irons, blow dryers and other products. He partnered with John Armstrong, owner of Armstrong McCall, one of the nation’s leading beauty supply distributors, more than 15 years ago. Now they own one of the largest companies in the Houston region.
“My mother said Farouk’s was the first innovative hair coloring product she had seen, and she’s been in the industry since the 1930s,” said Armstrong, who is also a Woodlands resident.
The men sell products in 90 countries, including Egypt, China and the Netherlands.
“Our company has been growing since the first day we started the business,” Armstrong said.