The Kardashian-Jenner empire is once again expanding. And for the first time, Kendall Jenner—previously the only sister without her own beauty brand—is getting involved in the industry conquests. In an Instagram post last Wednesday, the model and now entrepreneur announced she was excited to help launch Moon Oral Care (with the company’s founder, Shaun Neff). It is, rather obviously, a dental care line that is founded on the noble belief that “taking care of your teeth shouldn’t just do something — it should make you feel something.” What exactly that something is isn’t entirely clear. Perhaps that wonderful, tingly feeling of disrupting your periodontitis in full view of all your followers?
It was only a matter of time before Jenner launched a product of her own, but with lip kits, perfume, jeans, and whatever Poosh is already staked out by her sisters, it was up in the air as to what region of the body she’d claim as hers to beautify. And with notable branded gaffes like that poorly thought out Pepsi commercial and Fyre Fest in her past, it’s safe to say that whatever Jenner launched needed to be relatively non-controversial. Hello, teeth. Along with acting as the brand’s face, Jenner also has a stake in Moon Oral Care’s business. The line includes Instagram-bait dental innovations like matte black toothbrushes, activated charcoal whitening toothpaste in “lunar peppermint,” and a special Kendall Jenner tooth-whitening pen, all in sleek packaging that will look at home next to your Sunday Riley serums and Glossier Cloud Paint. The entire line, which only includes natural, vegan, and PETA-certified ingredients, is already available on Moon Oral Care’s website and will be in ULTA stores starting in May.
Jenner’s dental care line didn’t strike me at first as being at home with the rest of her family’s business ventures. Sure, charcoal toothpaste had its Instagram moment, and you can’t really ride the New York City subway without seeing a Quip toothbrush ad, but thus far Kardashian-Jenner-branded ventures have largely stayed within the lucrative realm of traditional beauty products that outlast a single trend cycle. When I think of the things that influencers are most likely to try to keep selling me, floss—jet-black packaging notwithstanding—isn’t really at the top of the list. But the fact that a member of one of the most business-savvy families in America has decided to stake a claim not in the relatively obvious, safe realms of makeup or clothes, but in something beauty-adjacent but also kind of gross like dental care, signals just what a behemoth the $4.2 trillion wellness industry has become.
Moon Oral Care is one of many product lines that fit into the subtle cultural shift toward expensive beauty care that is marketed as “natural.” Rather than covering up flaws or (supposedly) turning back the clock with mysterious anti-aging compounds, these products perfect or brighten or whiten and only with the “best ingredients.” This evolution is at the heart of no-makeup makeup and the ongoing rise of frou-frou skin care, as well as the turn away from framing weight loss as a quest to well, lose weight. Instead, we are in pursuit of feeling stronger or cleansing our bodies of toxins, hiding our mothers’ diet culture in the new language of luxurious empowerment, of freedom from chemicals in a world where pollutants are slowly killing us and our planet. Indeed, Moon Oral Care promises a “routine worthy of your countertop,” an all-natural treat to yourself that you deserve, leagues above the unworthy drugstore toothpaste. And like so much wellness, it lies at the intersection of murky science and chic packaging.
As a recent Atlantic piece by Ferris Jabr detailed, the evidence behind most dental procedures and interventions is tenuous at best. Because of the way that dentistry evolved, isolated from other more rigorously researched bodies of medicine, many of the truisms we hear about how best to take care of our teeth are little more than maxims passed down through the ages, internalized as truth. “As a profession, dentistry has not yet applied the same level of self-scrutiny as medicine, or embraced as sweeping an emphasis on scientific evidence,” Jabr writes. And yet, like skincare, dental care is designed to protect and perfect one of the very first things that others see when they interact with you. The lack of evidence behind treatments and products, combined with the fact that having bad skin and teeth can have a negative effect not just on self-esteem but on how others perceive you, creates a bevy of vulnerable underinformed consumers. In other words, a perfect market to corner in a larger industry that is designed to make you feel bad about yourself while simultaneously producing a solution to your woes.
Of course, none of that makes Moon Oral Care uniquely devious. By all means, it’s probably as effective as any other dental product on the market, and it’s certainly prettier. But Jenner’s business-savvy step into both dental care and the marketing of “natural” ingredients as automatically superior to their “chemical” cousins suggests to me that we are only just beginning our journey toward the wellness-ification of everything. At the very least, it means that, served alongside with Instagram ads for dermabrasion or cycling classes, I can soon expect to see smiling influencers with charcoal-stained teeth.