FOCUS - HOUSTON
Farouk Shami - CHI, Farouk Systems
hairstylist with an allergy to ammonia
could so easily have thrown in the towel
and changed to a completely different
career path. Instead, Farouk Shami went
on to become one of the most influential
men in the hair care industry. Today,
as the Founder and Chairman of Farouk
Systems, his Houston based company remains
at the cutting edge of innovative hair
care and spa products for the professional
market. It is owned and operated by a
team of over 300 full time and 1,500 part
time hairdressers in over 60 countries.
There is a strong emphasis on training
and development. His son, Rami Shami,
is the company's chief executive officer.
began Farouk Systems based on a mission
and a dream." He says. "My mission and
dream was to provide my fellow hair artists
with a safer workplace environment - free
of harsh chemicals, advanced knowledge
through education and new professional
only systems that could not be duplicated
at home. This is why Farouk Systems' mission
statement has always been and still is:
Environment, Education, & Ethics."
hair products are designed to suite all
types of hair. "CHI is made for the American
multi-racial society," says Shami, "CHI
is made to suite the African, Asian, Latin,
and European hair."
Shami tried many formulas over the years,
not only to create the many innovative
products of Farouk Systems, but to find
the right marketing and distribution angles.
The solutions he developed, have yielded
the most remarkable results, financially
and for the beauty industry.
"I guess you could say I achieved the
American dream but it wasn't easy," he
says. "It took years and years of work
and never giving up, no matter what obstacles
Three looks created for
Miss Universe 2005,
by Shauky Gulamani,
President of Farouk Systems.
to the States
is a Palestinian American, he grew up
in Rammallah, Palestine, Jerusalem. He
learned the art of coloring from an early
age, watching his mother make her own
vegetable and plant dyes to use in tapestries
and rugs. Like many colorists, he seriously
considered becoming a commercial artist.
He was also influenced by a Palestinian
Pharmacist and learned about the production
of hair care products. He experimented
with pigments and dyes using plants and
tree bark, creating hair dyes, shampoos
and conditioners. Educated in American
schools, he grew up with a desire to experience
the freedom of the USA and emigrated to
the States in 1965.
He had won a scholarship to enrol at the
University of Arkansas and fully intended
to gain a degree in commercial art and
then teach. However, his interest in hair
care products evolved into a fascination
"I planned to teach," he says. "But I
realized just how much I like hairdressing,
which, I believed, was an art in itself."
He attended cosmetology school and college
simultaneously, deciding to make hairdressing
his career. He dropped out of university
and quipped. "Instead of spending my money
on girls, they were spending their money
on me to cut their hair."
His father wasn't impressed by this choice
of career and he asked Shami to give it
up and return home. Determined to remain
in the United States and follow his dream,
Shami became estranged from his father
and it was many years before they were
"My father was convinced I would bring
shame to the family by working in a field
typically dominated by women," Shami says.
"It was very hurtful to me, but I could
not give up my dreams."
At that time, a doctor averaged $75 per
patient, while a professional educated
hairdresser earned up $300 per client.
Shami was convinced it made financial
sense to choose hairdressing.
"My brothers graduated with their PhDs
and I graduated with my scissors and dyes,"
End or a New Beginning
Shami worked in a variety of salons and
in 1972 he opened his first shop in Lafayette,
Louisiana. Six years later he moved to
Houston, where he worked as a hairdresser
while continuing to develop his own hair
care products, including dyes. He reached
a crisis point in 1981, when he started
to notice a serious reaction to the use
of dyes and other harsh chemicals. He
experienced skin irritation and difficulty
breathing, it became clear that he had
developed an allergy to ammonia. Anyone
else might have considered giving up hairdressing,
but not Shami.
was told it is impossible to do color
without (ammonia) and the doctor said
I had to quit pursuing my passion," Shami
recalled in a 2002 interview with Houston
Business Journal. "But there was no way
I was going to do that. I had to come
up with another route."
remembered what his mother had taught
him about formulating dyes and pigments
from natural sources. He studied chemistry,
ophthalmology and the physics of color
to understand how people see and perceive
color. He began to approach hair color
from the physics angle instead of the
chemical formulation. Shami has always
worked long hours and he spent his days
cutting hair in Salon Farouk, while at
night he was developing products for the
needs of his clients. "If a client had
dandruff or an oily scalp, I would create
products to help with their specific problem,"
Shami also created color products for
his clients that became so popular, he
began receiving calls from his former
clients' hairdressers asking what kind
of color he used. It took years, but the
dedication paid off when he created a
non-ammonia hair lightening system. It
was such a unique achievement that Shami
was the first hairdresser to receive a
patent on a hair care product. In 1986
Farouk Systems, Inc was formed to market
his new range called Sunglitz.
It wasn't long before Armstrong McCall,
a U.S. distributor of hair care and salon
equipment began marketing Sunglitz. John
McCall formerly a principal with the Austin,
Texas company invited Shami to demonstrate
the product. McCall said, "My mother,
who had been in the business all her life,
said it was the most innovative product
she'd ever seen." He was so impressed,
McCall signed a 20-year agreement to carry
Farouk products and he is now a minority
stake owner in Farouk Systems.
Amazingly, Shami's allergy to ammonia
had worked to his advantage. Out of adversity
he had turned the industry on its chemical
driven head and questioned why natural
products couldn't provide environmentally
friendly dyes and other hair industry
needs. It was the beginning of his now
world famous CHI product line, the name
"CHI" means "center of energy" in the
Chinese language. He incorporated natural
herbs and elements into his hair dyes.
That was just the beginning, he went on
to use natural silk in the CHI "Bio Silk"
range because it increases light reflection
three times over, resulting in hair with
a natural shine. It wasn't a new process,
but Farouk Systems fined tuned the existing
ideas by making the molecules of silk
from butterfly cocoons extremely small.
Instead of coating the hair with silk;
like many competitors; Bio Silk could
actually be absorbed by the hair shafts,
where it was possible to repair damaged
hair, banish frizziness and add shine.
company has also benefited from attracting
celebrities who regularly use Bio Silk
and other CHI products: Madonna, Gloria
Estefan, Renee Zellweger, Gwyneth Paltrow,
Jennifer Lopez, Courtney Cox, Demi Moore,
Jennifer Aniston, Claudia Schiffer, Jessica
Simpson, Salma Hayek and Halle Berry.
Farouk products are also widely used for
television shows: Sex in the City, General
Hospital, ER, America Dreams and Ugly
Betty (apart from poor Betty who has to
wear a wig!). Films include: Miss Congeniality,
Beauty Shop, the Austin Powers movies,
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and The
Muhammad Ali Story.
the Salon Door
the early 1990s, Shami made the decision
to move out of the salon business and
concentrate on supplying to the ever growing
beauty industry. In 10 years, Farouk Systems
had a 80,000 sq ft manufacturing plant
in Houston and two vast warehouses, all
his products are manufactured in the Bayou
his company exports to over 50 countries
and several European nations. In 2007, Farouk
Systems Group was split into 3 new divisions:
the CHI Professional Company, BioSilk/SunGlitz
Company and the CHI Nail Lacquer Company.
introduction of the CHI Straightening Iron, proved to be
the most important brand. Always an innovative thinker,
Sharmi invited NASA space scientists from the nearby Houston
base, to advise on the development of ceramic technology.
The result was an iron with pure ceramic plates, not coated
with ceramics. The new CHI heated up more quickly, maintained
a consistent temperature and the difference in performance
was noticeable. The take up by hair stylists was dramatic
and the CHI was widely used in styling the hair of TV and
screen stars. The product was then made more widely available
and Farouk found that women were prepared to pay as much
as $150 for the CHI, because it was so effective.
Systems went on to introduce hairdryers and irons which
generated negative ions, infrared-low-electromagnetic-field
blow dryers. Shami states that cellular phones can produce
2.5 electromagnetic waves and are considered cancerous,
yet the average blow dryer creates 1000-6000 electromagnetic
waves, although they are held further from the head in use.
The company also developed nano silver technology, which
it may incorporate in all of its hair tools. The microscopic
silver particles work like an antiseptic, effectively making
them self cleaning. Once again this advanced technology
was overseen by Dr Dennis Morrison, a top NASA scientist
who was hired as a consultant, by Farouk Systems as soon
as he retired from the space organization.
Farouk range is limitless from clippers, curling irons,
brushes, and combs, to hair care products, including dyes,
hair thickeners, and "transformation" systems for use with
the ceramic straightening iron. In 2004 the CHI magazine
was born, distributed to salons and now available online.
The company also promotes its own elite spa in Houston's
from making the hairdressing industry a safer, more efficient
place with environmentally friendly products and innovative
hair tools; the company's founder has given his help to
many charities. Shami has been involved with Houston-area
charities and national organizations such as the Juvenile
Diabetes Research Foundation and City of Hope. He has
also joined in celebrity causes, including Britney Spears's
"Make a Wish Foundation" Tour and NSYNC's Challenge for
With more than 30 years of salon experience and a strong
cosmetic chemistry background, Shami now heads a multimillion-dollar
beauty enterprise, but he still appears to care about
how that business is conducted and how it can improve
standards of supply, service and the lives of those it
Farouk Systems Group
Houston, Texas 7709