That One In a Million: One of My Industry Mentors, Dr. Albert Shansky
Joe Santy and Dr. Albert Shansky, PhD
There are millions of chemists in the world. Dr. Albert Shansky, PhD, is that one in a million who exemplifies what the word “humble” means. He has patents in the beauty industry that could warrant an ego the size of the Grand Canyon. His joy and passions, though, come from living life. His patents in permanent waving, coloring and straightening have revolutionized all these services. He has helped stylists and manufacturers for years by improving technologies.
Dr. Al was born in Brooklyn, NY, on March 26, 1925. His interest in Chemistry was initiated by his older Brother, whom he always looked up to. At 16, Dr. Al went into New York City to take a job as a Lab Tech, he loved it and that sealed his pursuit of being one of the top organic chemists in the country and in our industry. He earned his PhD in Organic Chemistry from at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
While going to school, his first beauty industry job was with the Eska Perm Division of Turner Hall, where he developed and patented the Eska Protein Wave, the first perm that incorporated protein into the perm process and the finished hair. He then worked with Helene Curtis, patenting the first non-irritating heat pad for use with machineless permanent waving before the dawn of the cold wave was ushered in. His work with permanent waving and hair coloring is legendary both in the professional beauty industry and on the consumer side. When cold waving skyrocketed, Dr. Al saw a time need for stylists and took the perm neutralization process from 20 to -30 minutes, which was the norm in the ’30’s, ’40’s and ’50’s, down to 5 minutes with his patent for on- the- rod neutralization.
I met Dr. Al back in the ‘80’s after reading an article he wrote on the permanent waving process. Based on his article, I knew I wanted to use him as my consulting chemist for giving feedback on the accuracy of the statements and claims I’d be making from stage for a major company and from behind the chair. Though I had access to the company’s chemists, sometimes you get “Chemistry Lite” with a double dose of “Marketing Fluff” from corporations. I wanted the real unbiased deal. Dr. Al delivered!
For a number of years, I’d board a train from Trenton, NJ, to Stamford, CT, to visit Dr. Al. Paying a fair fee (at the time, it was almost a week’s pay for me, nothing compared to the great investment in my career), we’d spend 2 hours per visit together conversing on about the chemical side of the beauty industry. It was money very well invested. Through our conversations, my knowledge base on products, ingredients and chemistry (not to mention life) grew exponentially with his help. Though the visits are now sometimes only once a year, we keep in touch by phone or e mail. The money is no longer necessary and our friendship and professional respect for each other continues to grow even to this day.
I thank God that a person of Dr. Al’s magnitude took the time to help and guide me.
Jewish by religion and Buddhist by philosophy (he’s an ordained Buddhist Monk), the soft- spoken, engaging Doc takes life with his mantra, “There is no joy in the casket. A successful, joyous life abounds with peace and love. Live it.” He has “Lived It” for 90 years, 68 of those years married to his college sweetheart, Pearl, and their four incredibly successful children. (one who co-founded The Wine Enthusiast!)
Dr. Al is an example of what one person can do to make the world better both professionally and personally!
Joe Santy has been hairdresser and international guest artist for over 35 years. He has spoken in all 50 States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Grand Cayman, Germany, Egypt and Greece. Joe is the author of Professional Permanent Waving – My Way and the co-author of Perming Beyond Great Curl and most recently Passionate Salon Professionals. He is the co-inventor of the Cyberstyler Styling Tool and has been an on-air guest for QVC in the United States and Germany with it.