Leopard Gecko Shedding: Processes, Red Flags, & FAQs Explained

Leopard gecko shedding is a natural part of the lizard’s life cycle.

Things can go wrong with a leopard gecko shedding, so let’s take a closer look at how to care for a leopard gecko that’s shedding and deal with any issues that arise.

Why Do Leopard Geckos Shed?

Leopard gecko shedding has a variety of motivations. Some of these include:

  • The shedding process helps to conserve nutrients.
  • Leopard gecko sheds make room for new skin cells.
  • Young leopard geckos shed to gain their adult coloration.
  • Shedding skin helps to get rid of dead skin, damaged cells, and external parasites.
  • Shedding allows the leopard gecko’s body to repair damaged skin and heal injuries.

All creatures with skin undergo a shedding process. If you look at a piece of your pillow under a microscope, you’ll see many shed skin cells.

The only difference between gecko shedding and that of humans is that reptiles shed their entire skin at once, while humans shed skin in tiny pieces all the time.

Reptile skin contains high amounts of keratin, which waterproofs the outer layer and prevents water loss.

Leopard Gecko inside a plastic enclosure
Due to its high keratin content, lizards must shed their entire upper layer of skin at once.
Image credit: u/Endarkening (via Reddit.com)

Because of this construction, the leopard gecko sheds its outer skin all at once.

The shedding process is necessary for all lizards, including leopard geckos, to help maintain healthy skin.

Leopard Gecko Shedding Signs to Look out For

Several signs indicate that the leopard gecko shedding process will take place soon.

Not every leopard gecko will display all the signs, and it will take some time for you to get to know your pet’s signs.

These are some of the general precursors to a leopard gecko shedding:

  • The gecko appears duller than usual
  • Your leopard gecko may begin to look papery
  • Leopard geckos may suffer a loss of appetite
  • The leopard gecko’s pattern fades to a greyish color
  • Leopard geckos may become more irritable before shedding

How Often Do Leopard Geckos Shed?

An adult leopard gecko may shed as infrequently as once every two months and as often as once a month.

Leopard gecko shedding changes in frequency throughout the gecko’s lifespan.

Young leopard geckos shed the most often (more about that in the next section).

It’s not unusual for a leopard gecko to go through periods where it doesn’t shed. Factors that might affect a leopard gecko shed include:

  • Brumating leopard geckos don’t shed
  • Leopard geckos don’t shed when incubating eggs
  • Any kind of illness can interrupt the normal schedule of shedding the old skin

The leopard gecko’s skin may begin to look a bit haggard during these times, but it’s nothing to worry about.

As soon as your leopard gecko has completed the task at hand, it will shed its old skin as it normally would.

How Often Do Baby Leopard Geckos Shed?

Hatchling leopard geckos may shed their old skin as often as once a week.

As time goes by, they’ll shed less often.

Here’s a basic guide to how often leopard geckos of different ages shed:

  • Hatchlings (under three months old) – once a week to once every two weeks
  • Young geckos (three to six months old) – once a week to once every two weeks
  • Juvenile geckos (six to 18 months old) – once a month
  • Adult leopard geckos (over 18 months of age) – once every four to eight weeks

How to Care for a Leopard Gecko That’s Shedding

To help your gecko get rid of its old skin requires some special care. Since they shed often, most of these things are permanent fixtures.

Humid Hides

One of the best ways to care for your gecko pre-shed is by providing a humid hide or shedding box.

Dry skin is one of the biggest causes of abnormal shedding or a leopard gecko with a stuck shed.

Your leopard gecko requires a high humidity level to shed properly. A humid hide is a box that provides higher humidity thanks to the presence of a moist substrate.

You can buy a commercial shedding box or create one. Here’s how to make a shedding box:

  1. Buy a plastic container that’s about one-and-a-half times the size of your gecko. Ensure that it has a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Wash and rinse the tub thoroughly to remove any chemical residues and potentially toxic substances from the manufacturing and storage processes.
  3. Use a hole saw or spade bit to drill a hole on one side of the container.
  4. The hole should be big enough and low enough for easy access by your gecko. Aim to place the hole around one inch from the bottom of the container.
  5. Use sandpaper or a file to smooth the edges of the hole and ensure there aren’t any sharp bits.
  6. Place around one inch of substrate in the bottom of the box. Good substrate choices include:
    1. Peat moss
    2. Coconut fiber
    3. Sphagnum moss
    4. Vermiculite or perlite (blended with one of the choices mentioned above
    5. Some gecko owners prefer using a wet paper towel, but it’s a short-term solution to maintain its high humidity level.

A Balanced Diet

Another major cause of shedding problems is an unbalanced diet.

Albino Leopard Gecko on a white background
A balanced diet is vital for your gecko’s health.

Many gecko owners don’t realize that their pets need a diverse diet to stay healthy.

Malnutrition results from a diet lacking in calcium or focuses on one or two types of feeder insects.

One of the main problems with most pet gecko diets is that they revolve around high-fat feeder insects like mealworms and waxworms.

Not only do high-fat feeder insects lead to obesity, but they’re also not on a balanced diet on their own.

adult female leopard gecko
There are many different feeder animals that your gecko can eat.

Your leopard gecko needs a diet consisting of a variety of feeders. Options include:

  • Earthworms
  • Young superworms
  • A variety of young feeder crickets like grey, black, and red crickets
  • Feeder cockroaches, like juvenile Dubai roaches, Turkistan roaches, and young hissing cockroaches

You can give your gecko mealworms as a treat, but they shouldn’t be a substantial part of its diet.

Pro tip: Never feed your gecko wild-caught insects, as they can transmit parasites and diseases. Wild cockroaches and crickets especially are prone to carrying nematodes and other parasites.

In addition to feeding a diverse variety of feeders, it’s important to dust your gecko’s food with a high-quality calcium supplement.

Geckos have a high calcium requirement, but few feeder insects contain more than trace amounts. It’s essential to offset their calcium intake by using a good-quality calcium powder.

Gut-loading is another essential aspect of balancing your gecko’s diet.

For 12 hours or so before feeding crickets, roaches, or worms to your geckos, place them in a separate container.

Feed the feeders nutrient-rich foods like vegetables and high-quality, non-medicated dog food to boost the number of nutrients that your gecko gets when it eats them.

Monitor the Temperature and Humidity

Even when it has a moist hide, the ambient temperature and humidity play a significant role in preventing stuck skin and other problems.

As with all reptiles, geckos are cold-blooded and can’t generate their own heat. They adjust their body temperature by moving between warm and cold outside temperatures.

It’s essential, both for the gecko’s general health and to ensure a successful shed, that you give your pet a temperature gradient in its habitat.

You can accomplish this by heating one side of the enclosure and leaving the other side unheated.

For a leopard gecko, the optimal temperatures are as follows:

  • Cool side: 70-77 °F
  • Warm side: 90-92 °F
  • Ambient temperature: 77-90 °F
  • Nighttime temperature: 67-74 °F

If the temperature on the warm side of the spectrum isn’t right, your moist hide can’t generate the humidity that the gecko needs.

If the enclosure is too warm, your pet can’t cool down, etc. For optimal shedding conditions, ensure that your gecko has the appropriate temperatures.

You should also ensure a relative humidity of 30-40%. This is essential to prevent your gecko from getting dry skin (which can cause problems during shedding).

You can keep the humidity in range by using a large water dish and misting the enclosure as needed.

If you faithfully keep the conditions mentioned above, your pet shouldn’t have any problems when shedding time comes around.

However, problems may arise if your gecko has been ill, stressed out, or kept in low-humidity conditions, problems may arise, and you may have to intervene.

Once the signs appear that the gecko’s new skin is ready (graying skin, loss of appetite, lethargy, the shed cycle has begun.

As soon as the cycle starts, you can expect your pet to shed within the next three days.

Read our full leopard gecko habitat guide here. 

Is It OK to Help Your Leopard Gecko Shed?

It’s okay to help your gecko shed, but ONLY if it has trouble shedding.

portrait shot of an orange leopard gecko
A failed shedding can have disastrous consequences.
Image credit: u/janznwkqmw (via Reddit.com)

The process of shedding old skin is a sensitive time for your gecko.

The new skin is still tender, and trying to help when there aren’t any shedding problems can lead to issues where there were none.

Keep an eye on your gecko for 24 hours (starting when the shedding process starts). If it hasn’t finished shedding in that time, then you need to intervene.

If the shed gets stuck on sensitive areas like the toes, or pulls tight around another part of the gecko’s body, act immediately after the 24 hours have passed.

If the old skin remains tight around any limb, it restricts blood flow and can result in the gecko losing that limb. It’s VITAL to keep a close eye on the shedding process.

Leopard Gecko Stuck Shed Toolkit

If your pet has shedding issues or hasn’t finished shedding, the following recommendations may help.

Stuck Shed

For lizards with a shed that hasn’t come loose, you have several treatment options, depending on the severity of the condition.

If the shed is stuck on a large part of the lizard’s body, consider bathing it. Here’s how:

  1. Fill a shallow plastic container with around one-half of an inch of lukewarm water.
  2. If you have a large gecko, you can add more water, just ensure that it isn’t higher than the gecko’s chin.
  3. You can leave the lizard in the water for ten minutes or wait till the warm water starts to cool down.
  4. Remove the lizard from the water. The shed should now be loose enough for the lizard to shed normally.
  5. You may rub the lizard’s skin gently to help remove the affected shed.

Misting is another option for helping your gecko to shed. Here’s what to do:

  1. Fill a misting bottle with lukewarm water.
  2. Set the bottle to a fine mist spray.
  3. Spray the stuck shed with warm water (don’t spray the lizard’s face).
  4. Leave the gecko for ten minutes, then pat it dry.
  5. If the effect isn’t complete, repeat steps three and four.
  6. You can repeat the process up to three times. You can also rub the area gently to help remove the skin.

If misting and bathing aren’t successful, it’s time to consider a shedding aid.

Shedding aids are commercially produced remedies that help with stuck sheds.

They usually consist of a water base combined with oil and soothing substances like aloe vera.

Here’s how to apply a shedding aid:

  1. Place the aid in a small misting bottle set to a fine spray.
  2. Spray all the affected areas, but avoid the eyes and other sensitive areas.
  3. Use a q-tip to apply the aid to hard-to-reach places like the toes or the base of the tail.
  4. You can also use the q-tip to treat the areas around the eyes, nostrils, and mouth (but not the eyes or nostrils themselves.
  5. The aid should loosen the skin enough so the lizard can shed normally. You can also rub gently to help remove the shed.

If none of these things work, it’s time to get veterinary advice.

Retained Skin

In some cases, your gecko will shed normally but miss a few small areas.

leopard gecko with some unshed skin
The nose, toes, and between the eyes are a few places where pieces of skin often stay behind.
Image credit: u/Anti-Obamist (via Reddit.com)

Some of the common occurrences include:

  • Between the eyes
  • The eyes themselves
  • Stuck shed on leopard gecko toes
  • The tip of the nose (around the nostrils)

In most of these cases, it’s easy to treat this problem.

Here’s how (disclaimer: this technique is NOT for the gecko’s eyes):

  1. Using a q-tip and lukewarm water, simply apply moisture to the affected area.
  2. Be very careful to avoid sensitive areas like the eyes and nostrils.
  3. Keep dabbing moisture on the area till the stuck skin is loose and soft.
  4. Carefully use forceps or a small tweezer to take the edge of the shed and slowly pull it off.
  5. If the skin is truly stuck, don’t force it. Doing so could damage the new skin. Instead, apply a shedding aid and try again.

If your gecko has retained the skin over its eyes, take it to a vet or an experienced lizard keeper for help.

The eyes are very sensitive, and removing the retained skin is a delicate procedure.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article about leopard gecko shedding.

Our website hosts an array of other useful articles for the leopard gecko keeper.

Check out our articles about leopard gecko care and leopard gecko morphs if you haven’t yet.

If you already have a pet gecko, our articles about substrate, diet, and habitats may come in handy.

Have you had problems with your leopard gecko’s shedding? Let us know in the comments.

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