A Season for Beards

As the weather warms up and with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions easing in some parts of the country, it’s a timely reminder to stay sun safe and get your skin checked. And who better to talk with about the importance of skin checks than the founder of Beard Season, Jimmy Niggles Esq.

Founded in 2010, the idea behind Beard Season, formerly known as Winter, was conceived when a group of friends lost a good mate to skin cancer.

“It started after we lost one of our best mates to melanoma back in 2010,” explains Jimmy Niggles Esq.

“His name was Wes Bonny and he died at the age of 26, which was absolutely horrific.

“The idea came around at his wake when we were sitting around a table full of schooners and decided we needed to do something because we were blown away that it could happen to someone so young.

“We decided to focus on early detection because no one else was really doing that at the time and we thought that was a big piece of the puzzle, which was missing from the cancer fight.”

Using his background in advertising, Jimmy Niggles Esq. tells Retail Pharmacy Assistants  that he conducted “target audience research and found that 69% of melanoma deaths are men – young men aged 18-45”, which led to the birth of Beard Season, a charity that encourages men to “grow their beards and use them as life-saving conversation starters to challenge their friends and family to get a skin check”.

“Beard Season … is all about commitment and it turns those most at risk into our biggest advocates,” he says.

Walking the walk

As a champion of change, Jimmy Niggles Esq. walks the walk when it comes to raising awareness for skin cancer. He has an impressive beard of his own, which he started growing in 2010 when the charity first started.

Jummy Niggles Esq. Image by: Mr Elbank mrelbank.com/

“Since our first Beard Season I had about six or seven people say that they found something that could have killed them.

“And that was just people who I met randomly at the beach or the pub – they got checked and they found something,” he says.

This made him realise that the idea behind Beard Season was working and got him thinking: “Why don’t I keep my beard as a reminder to keep the idea growing?”

“So, from that first Beard Season I’ve kept my beard growing and every day I look in the mirror, it challenges me to keep the charity growing and it’s been 10 years this year since it has been on my face,” he says.

Staying sun safe despite Covid-19

While a lot of people, particularly those in Victoria, have spent a significant time indoors this year due to the strict lockdown measures that were implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19, Jimmy Niggles Esq. points out that this is not a reason to be complacent when it comes to staying safe in the sun and getting regular skin checks.

“It’s important to remember that wearing a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses … is really important and to be especially careful around the loony lunchtime hours of 11am-3pm,” he says.

“Just because you haven’t had sun doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk of getting skin cancer.

“Burns from years ago can be bubbling away and might only be just cropping up now so [lockdown] definitely doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about getting a skin check.

“It’s always important to get checked. And in fact, because of Covid-19, Australia has had a … 30 to 50% drop in people getting checked.

“That’s really, really dangerous because it’s going to mean … that less people [are getting checked].

“That might mean that there’s going to be a massive jump in late stage cancer now, which is way harder to treat and a lot more deadly.

“So, of course be sun safe when you’re … [enjoying] the beautiful outdoors of Australia but the need to get checked is almost more [important] than it ever has been because of Covid-19.”

How can pharmacy assistants ensure people get a skin check?

As one of the most frequently visited places for everything healthcare, Jimmy Niggles Esq. is a firm believer that pharmacy assistants have an important role in encouraging people to have skin checks.

“You’d see a lot more people coming through the door asking skin-related questions and … all of these opportunities are really important and could literally save lives just by encouraging people that it’s important that they go to their GP or skin specialist for a screening,” he says.

“We have a really good guide that we use called, ‘The ABCDE Melanoma’, and that’s something everyone should learn in Australia. It’s a really good tool for keeping an eye on spots.”

To read the full feature as it appears in this month’s issue of Retail Pharmacy Assistants magazine, visit: rpassistants.com.au/magazines/retail-pharmacy-assistants-november-2020/