Skin Deep

Sarah McDonald On Why Oral Health Is Essential To Beauty

by Julia Gibson

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Skin Deep

Sarah McDonald On Why Oral Health Is Essential To Beauty

Byte’s Head of Brand Marketing knows a thing or two about a beautiful smile.

With so much focus on skincare and makeup, the first thing that comes to mind when you think “beauty” isn’t necessarily oral health. If you ask Sarah McDonald, that’s changing. As Head of Brand Marketing at Byte, Sarah has used her branding savvy to make orthodontics cool and accessible. With their at-home aligner kits, Byte makes it possible to get your dream smile without having to step foot in a dentist office.. All you have to do is take impressions of your teeth at home, send them in, and soon you have your own set of custom aligners. Easy right? And in the midst of a global pandemic, anything that helps us reach our beauty goals at home is better than ever. We chatted with Sarah about her branding strategy, what she does to keep her own smile beautiful, and why oral health is a bigger part of beauty than you think.

JG

How did you become interested in beauty and oral health?

SM

I grew up in Oakland, California, which is known for its diversity and open-mindedness when it comes to culture and expressing yourself. From an early age, I loved to explore beauty. I could often be found reading Seventeen or CosmoGirl for skincare tips or buying every MAC eyeshadow I could get my hands on to layer on my lids (yes, multiple bright colors at once). It’s funny because back then I poured so much thought into everything but my oral health. I never associated my teeth with beauty; honestly I always saw them as a burden that I had to keep up with. I formed bad flossing habits when I had braces that stuck with me. By the time I got to my mid-twenties, I started to notice that my teeth were shifting from never wearing my retainer. Add the stains from my daily coffee habit, and my teeth were becoming an insecurity I’d never felt before.

It was not until building Byte that I started to quickly connect the dots between health, beauty, and oral care. The beauty industry has made great progress towards focusing on self-care and finding confidence through beauty within, rather than trying to be someone you’re not. I was excited at the challenge in front of me – how to make oral care cool and more mainstream in health and beauty conversations.

JG

How did your career journey lead you to Byte?

SM

I started out in medical sales. After four years, I realized I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing and set out to find a new career path. I was eager to try more in the brand and social space, which was evolving quickly. But I wasn’t sure how to switch industries at what I felt was an old age (I was 25 lol). After getting my feet wet at YouTube, I switched to the world of start-ups. I wanted to force myself to get uncomfortable, take bigger chances, and try a little bit of everything to see what I loved. When I worked at Winc, I dove head first into all things social, which primed me for the role at Byte. What sold me on joining the Byte team was realizing how big of a difference this could make. Our focus is on making the inaccessible, accessible. Through technology, we can help customers who never could previously afford or access great dental care. I realized this was more than just another fun brand or product. It was a movement that will really impact people in a positive way.
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JG

With Byte, you’ve managed to make something that was previously not so exciting (orthodontics) into something exciting and cool. How did you do it?

SM

It’s been a fun and challenging two years of growth! We realized early on that our customers were our best brand advocates. Instead of trying to create a brand and urging people to care about it, we simply listened. Byte was built on their stories of empowerment and confidence. Telling these authentic stories is what garnered us so much positive attention from people like Kerry Washington. She saw how big of an impact we could make in underserved communities, and actually asked to be a part of it! Now with voices like hers to help amplify our mission, organic growth is really starting to happen. It all comes from a place of truly wanting to help people smile more.

JG

What makes a brand successful?

SM

Keeping core values in mind, from the big decisions to the small things that pop up. It can be really tempting for a brand to make quick decisions that will drive top-line growth. But if they aren’t aligned with the core values, it can end up failing in the long term. During the peak of the pandemic this year, we stayed fairly busy since it was not safe to see an orthodontist in person. Instead of doubling down on marketing to acquire new customers, we stuck with our core value of making the inaccessible accessible. We switched some of our manufacturing facilities to design and make PPE, like face shields, to donate to first responders. We also made our remote expert dental network available to anyone that needed medical assistance through teledentistry, not just our customers. These types of decisions contribute to a brand being successful for the right reasons, not just the right profit goals.

JG

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

SM

I would say my biggest challenge was finding the confidence to change career paths and embrace the unknown. I often stayed in jobs longer than I should have because I was scared to fail at whatever was next. Building Byte has not only allowed me to help others find their confidence but helped me lean into mine as well! Only in the last couple of years have I realized there is no one right way to build a brand. The more I just trusted that I knew what I was doing, the more I unlocked the magic of what makes our brand such a success.

You need your teeth to last you a lifetime, so sticking with your routine is the most important.”

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JG

What is the best piece of dental beauty advice you’ve heard?

SM

Stick with it! You need your teeth to last you a lifetime, so sticking with your hygiene and retainer routine is the most important. Many of our customers actually had braces when they were younger. But life happens, retainers get lost, and teeth shift. People often get frustrated and give up because they can’t imagine spending money on orthodontics a second time, much less having braces as an adult. When they find out aligners are an option, it can be eye-opening. The technology has improved so much over the years, and it’s way more affordable than before. It can feel like a second chance at their dream smile – and this time they’ll hang on to those retainers to keep things in place.

JG

What do you do to take care of your smile?

SM

My dental routine is one of my favorite parts of the day. There are actually so many great dental brands now. If they don’t get you excited for brushing and flossing, I don’t know what will! Here are my 4 favorites.

  1. quip electric toothbrush – Their connected app actually gave me a few pointers on better brushing habits, and the beautiful design is the icing on the cake.
  2. AirFloss – It’s my high tech splurge, but it leaves me feeling as clean as I do right after a dentist appointment. 
  3. BrightByte paired with my Byte aligners – This minty foam is actually my go-to for whitening. You can put it right into aligners, retainers, or night guards, and it whitens without the hassle of led lights or bleach strips.
  4. KNC Beauty Supa Scrub and Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask – Two of my favorite products to finish my smile routine with! A beautiful smile isn’t just about taking care of your teeth. You need giving your lips some TLC too.

JG

In a few words, describe what beauty means to you.

SM

Beauty is finding peace and comfort in your own skin. It’s embracing what makes me unique and letting that shine through.
sarah mcdonald byte

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