Hand & Land cleans you up nicely in Leawood’s Park Place

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The first thing I noticed about Hand & Land was the smell — the delightful smell.

The charming home, body and health shop in Leawood’s Park Place immediately hijacked my senses with a clean, piney scent that welcomed me in from the cool winter air outside. Walking into the space felt like entering a spa.

Unlike the seasonal products I regularly purchase on sale at Bath & Body Works and Target — candles manufactured to smell like pumpkin frosting or marshmallow fluff — the fragrances at Hand & Land are produced with all-natural essential oils. This creates pure, inviting fragrances that the shop’s owners, cousins Jessica Moler and Nicole Lobdell, love to show off.

While introducing me to the vast array of products, Moler let me sniff six roll-on botanical scents from the Brooklyn company Marble & Milkweed. I rubbed one on my wrists called “Moon Snail,” made with jasmine, mimosa, ylang ylang and roasted seashells — no joke. The fragrance was complex and lightly floral, reminiscent of a summer day.

“They’re intimate perfumes,” Moler said. “They don’t follow you around. They’re subtle and just enough for you and your loved ones to enjoy.”

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Not so subtle that they’ll go completely unnoticed, though. At a recent craft fair, other vendors also pointed out that Moler and Lobdell smelled amazing. The compliment always comes as a surprise, Moler said, because these days they’re used to smelling good.

Before opening Hand & Land, Moler and Lobdell had each explored the world of natural beauty and cleaning products, primarily out of curiosity. For five years, Moler lived abroad, in Germany and Australia, where she taught and worked on an organic farm. She told me that Australia, where her roommate made beeswax deodorant for herself, has long been ahead of the game. “Australia is the land of natural beauty,” Moler said. “They’re pioneers of using plants.”

Lobdell, meanwhile, was working as a police forensic specialist when she started making her own organic cleaners in her spare time. The cousins, seven years apart in age, bonded while sharing recipes for various salves and deodorants — a hobby that eventually led to a full-fledged business plan.

Moler returned to Kansas City in 2014, and she and Lobdell opened Hand & Land last June. It’s still a new business, but the two women clearly have a solid grasp of their ecofriendly aesthetic, which Moler describes as “clean and feminine.” (The shop also offers plenty of products for men.) Locally made treasures peek through the stock, including Hammerpress prints, MADI underwear and preserves from Kansas City Canning Co.

As I walked around the store, sniffing at everything I saw — candles, laundry detergent, whatever — I began to believe that Hand & Land could offer some solace amid the overwhelming barrage of mass-marketed products designed to offer quick fixes. The skin-care lines here, for instance, position themselves as something deeper than just a means to buff away wrinkles and disguise imperfections. There’s more than a whiff of lifestyle improvement.

“It’s about the ritual of taking care of yourself,” Moler said. “It feels luxurious.”

As for their own favorite products, Moler told me that she can’t live without the spot serum from Meow Meow Tweet, a vegan skin-care company based in the Hudson Valley. Lobdell loves the rose-and-chamomile mini facial kit from Marble & Milkweed, which contains four products that read like a drink description on a fancy cocktail menu: scrub, tonic, grains and nectar.

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Lobdell pointed out that the ingredients in that kit include little more than honey, rose and chamomile, so I had to ask whether I could, you know, eat it. (Let’s be honest: I licked my frosting-flavored Lip Smackers as a kid. You licked your frosting-flavored Lip Smackers.) Lobdell said I probably could — and that it might even taste good.

What makes the products safe is the quality of the ingredients. The Hand & Land website lists the “toxic ten” things to avoid in beauty and cleaning products, including silicone, parabens and phthalates — all commonly found in moisturizers and cosmetics. According to Moler, synthetic fragrances are the No. 1 offenders to avoid — they can cause skin irritation, headaches and even hormonal imbalances.

She added that a lot of “green washing” goes on in the industry, meaning that many products are not as natural as their manufacturers claim. She wants Hand & Land to be the kind of place where people feel confident knowing exactly what they’re putting on their bodies and in their environments.

“We want to assure our customers that we’ve done the research,” Moler said. “They can come here to find something healthy for themselves and their families.”

Moler is aware that revamping your entire beauty system at once is unrealistic, so she recommends making one small change at a time — for instance, buying an all-natural moisturizer the next time you run out or replacing your bathtub cleaner with one containing fewer chemicals.

It also couldn’t hurt to invest in some of those essential-oil perfumes, because we all need an excuse to stop and smell the roasted seashells.

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