Desert Essence: The Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

Updated on September 6, 2016

In my quest to find a good sulfate-free shampoo and reduce the unnecessary chemicals in my life and bath products, I’ve recently tried many varieties, including Nature’s Gate, Burt’s Bees, Aveeno Sulfate-Free, Organix, and Desert Essence. I selected these for comparison since they can usually be found in major stores (although they are often cheaper online). Let’s see how each of them fared:

Nature’s Gate

Nature’s Gate offers a variety of choices depending on your hair type. I have tried the aloe vera and herbal options. The herbal definitely did not work as it left my hair feeling dry. The aloe vera worked better, but it still seemed to require more work to get the hair clean. If you have very short hair, it would probably be a better choice than for long hair that requires more management. A little conditioner went a long way, which was great as far as saving more money and buying less frequently. However, it is easy to overuse and leave in too much residue, which made my hair seem like I never washed it. Overall, I did like that they focused on all-natural ingredients, and the smell of the aloe vera was pleasant, but Nature’s Gate seems like a better choice for short hair.

Burt's Bees

Once again, you have several choices. Since I have long hair, I selected the Super Shiny Grapefruit and Sugar Beet option. The best part was that Burt’s Bees could be the most “all-natural” of them all, but unfortunately the worst part was everything else. It either left my hair feeling dry or not feeling very clean if I used more conditioner. It also gave my long hair a bit of a “rope-like” texture. It might work well on short hair if you don’t use too much conditioner, but overall, it wasn’t for me.


This is a very popular brand found in many stores, including Target where you may be more likely to find it on sale. There are many, many options depending on what you want for your hair or your hair type (almost too many options), but each of those I tried worked well. Overall, this definitely seems like a very good choice if you want a pleasant hair-washing experience, but my main concern is all of the extra ingredients. Yes, it is sulfate-free, but there are so many other ingredients I can hardly call it “all-natural.”


Aveeno Pure Renewal Sulfate-Free

This has relatively few ingredients compared to others, which I appreciate, but it still focuses on standard shampoo ingredients rather than using a more natural blend. It did a decent job cleaning my hair. Although the smell was somewhat medicinal, it lathered much more effectively that other sulfate-free shampoos (not sure which ingredient is responsible for that, though). One downside is, well, you only get one option for a “standard” hair type. I wouldn’t prefer it over Organix and Desert Essence, but it seems like a good basic sulfate-free option that does a good job of leaving hair feeling clean and manageable.


Desert Essence (also called Desert Essence Organics)

This is definitely my favorite. As usual, you have many options depending on your hair type and desired goal (more volume, more shine, basic clean, etc.). My personal favorites are the Red Raspberry Shampoo for shine combined with the Green Apple and Ginger conditioner for volume, although the Red Raspberry Conditioner also worked well. The smell is very pleasant—probably the best out of the shampoos I have tried. The brand focuses on all-natural ingredients all around, and both shampoos and conditioners left my hair feeling clean and manageable (and silky-shiny using the Red Raspberry). In the wintertime, I might recommend the Green Apple and Ginger over the Red Raspberry for more moisture, but again, overall I had no complaints except the price, but you can find it cheaper on Amazon than in-store.

Desert Essence Shampoo - Green Apple and Ginger

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