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After several years of using anti-bacterial soaps to help improve hand hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent GP PRO survey into handwashing habits and preferences finds that consumers are again placing value on hand soap that not only kills germs but is also gentle on the skin and moisturizing.

The May survey of 500 adults in the U.S. finds that 84 percent of consumers believe they do a good or excellent job of handwashing at home, and nearly as many say they do a good or excellent job of handwashing away from home. Despite these high numbers, when asked how they could improve their hand hygiene, 47 percent say they could wash their hands more often, and 46 percent say they could wash their hands longer. Almost as many believe they could use more hand sanitizer in addition to handwashing to improve their hand hygiene.

Looking at consumer handwashing preferences, consumers still rank killing germs as the most important attribute of the soap they use both at home (97 percent) and away from home (94 percent), but they are putting increased significance on soap also being gentle and moisturizing. According to the survey, 94 percent of consumers say being gentle on the skin is an important characteristic of the soap they use at home, and 87 percent say the same of soap they use away from home. 90 percent of consumers suggest being moisturizing is a desired attribute of the soap they use at home, and 81 percent say the same of soap they use away from home.

The survey offers yet another indication of this shifting consumer perspective. When asked to choose from a list of words and phrases they associate with healthy hands, moisturized, germ-free, smooth skin, and soft were all selected by more than 50 percent of consumers.

“It’s not surprising that consumers sought products specifically designed to kill germs during the worst of the pandemic nor that they were willing to sacrifice smooth, hydrated skin to do so,” says Nick Trainer, vice president and general manager of skincare at GP PRO. “What we’re hearing from consumers now, though, is that they are open to washing their hands even more frequently than they currently do, but they want hand soap solutions that result in clean and healthy hands.”

Trainer advises industry professionals to address consumers’ away-from-home soap preferences as a way to provide them a more home-like experience. This can be done by offering an all-in-one hand soap that is naturally sourced and formulated without harsh chemicals. Says Trainer, “Away-from-home hand hygiene should not come at the expense of skin health. I believe giving consumers what they want in regard to hand soap will further propel the good handwashing habits they developed during this recent pandemic.”