The Tawas Test: We compare three popular anti-sweat products under 160 pesos

With Philippine summer in full swing, temperatures are steadily rising. PAGASA says that it can reach a scathing 38 degrees Celsius this April, so the PV team is scrambling to find ways to keep ourselves looking and smelling fresh despite the crazy heat. Apart from swapping our daily makeup for waterproof options, we’re especially conscious about super sweaty armpits! I’ve already shared our  secret for totally odor-free underarms, but is it possible to stop them from perspiring as well?

Sweating is a natural response of our bodies to change in temperature. When it gets too hot, our bodies produce sweat in order to cool us down. While it serves a useful function, the feeling of moist, sticky armpits is decidedly uncomfortable. Sweat stains on clothes are also quite unsightly, so to avoid being spotted with “baskil” or basang kili-kili (sweaty armpits), many people use antiperspirants.

Locally known as “tawas”, alum is the key ingredient of antiperspirants. Commercial antiperspirants usually come in the form of aluminium chlorohydate. There are rumors about this ingredients being linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s but as yet, there are no scientific studies that prove these links. If you’d rather go the “natural” route, look for formulas that contain either ammonium alum or potassium (potash) alum, which both have antibacterial properties that also prevent body odor.

Most antiperspirants contain some kind of aluminum, though not all identify which type of aluminium it contains. Among the products labeled as “antiperspirant” in the stores I checked, I couldn’t find any that is aluminium-free. There were quite a few brand options though, I decided to try a few to find out which ones would actually keep my pits dry!

I started off with the most classic bangketa tawas that you can find anywhere and everywhere. The Summer Wind Tawas Powder (P15) has a very rough texture that feels more like salt than powder. It doesn’t have an ingredients list so I am unsure of what kind of alum it is, and also doesn’t list a manufacturing or an expiration date. Yes, it’s all sorts of sketchy, but I’m hard headed and tested it anyway.

I applied the tawas only on my right armpit and didn’t put anything on the left. The instructions said to apply this after showering, just before I went to bed. Since the packaging is just a plain plastic container, application was very messy and I got tawas all over the floor.

From application, I immediately noticed that my right armpit was powder dry, without even the barest hint of sweat. The next day, I decided to work out a little harder to produce more sweat. However, I found that I had the same amount of sweat stains on both sides. This makes me think that regular tawas actually works well, but only for light sweating and then rubs off fairly easily.

There are stick and roll-on variants of this but I was intrigued by the easy application of Deonat Natural Mineral Deodorant Spray (P159 from Watsons). This contains ammonium alum as its main antiperspirant ingredient. As with the tawas, I applied this on dry, clean pits right after showering. Immediately after spraying, I felt a slight cooling sensation on my armpits.

After about 7 hours of sleep, I worked out the next morning to test if the Deonat spray could control my sweat. I was pleasantly surprised by the results! As seen in the photos, the sweaty patch on the underarm that had been sprayed with Deonat is significantly smaller than the bare one. Impressive!

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Lastly, I tried the Milcu Magic Puff Deodorant Powder (P109 from Watsons).  If you’ve ever tried Milcu in the bottle packaging before, this is literally the same thing except in a more user-friendly container with puff applicator. Milcu uses potash alum as their key alum ingredient, and the texture feels like a gritty baby powder. It doesn’t have a scent at all, and I found it to be the easiest to apply of the three.

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All my high school classmates used Milcu so I expected good results but I was left very unimpressed. Although the armpit with Milcu does have less sweat stains, it still left a large sweat patch. There isn’t much difference between the two.

Overall, I am most impressed with the Deonat Natural Mineral Deodorant Spray both in terms of performance and application. I actually want to try the other forms of Deonat now because this one worked so well!

Do you use antiperspirants? What brands do you rely on to keep your pits sweat-free?