Reptile Molting

Reptile molting is the process by which snakes, lizards, and turtles get rid of old skin. It’s a vital process that must occur to allow them to grow larger.


Shedding is a normal and healthy process that can happen anywhere from four to 12 times per year. During this time the snakes coloring will dull and their eyes will look bluish.

Why do reptiles shed their skin?

Reptiles shed their skin at regular intervals to remove old layers and allow new cells to grow underneath. Shedding helps regulate body temperature and protects the reptile from parasites. It also helps the reptile get rid of bacterial infections and other pathogens that are stuck in the old skin cells.

A reptile can tell it is getting ready to shed by becoming sluggish and lethargic. It will lose interest in eating and may even have a stomach ache. This is because it puts a lot of energy into growing the new layer of skin and eliminating the old one.

Just prior to shedding, the reptile will begin looking bluish and their eyes will turn opaque or cloudy. At this point the reptile is most likely feeling vulnerable to predators, so it will hide in a safe place until the process is over.

Once the shedding starts, the snake will rub against cage furniture or other objects to help slough off the old skin. This is why it is important not to handle your snake while they are going through this process. The skin will be very dry and difficult to pull off. It is better to hydrate the reptile with a bath or simply use a spray bottle to gently mist them.

Once the snake is done rubbing off the old skin, it will take a while for it to finish shedding. If there is a problem with shedding, it is called dysecdysis and it is usually caused by a lack of humidity. This causes the skin to shrink and compromises the blood flow to the digits, dorsal spines or tail tips.

How do reptiles shed their skin?

The skin of a reptile acts as the primary barrier between internal structures and external environments, protecting against heat and cold, UV rays, evaporation and parasites. Reptiles have a natural process to shed old, tight-fitting skin, which is called molting or ecdysis, and it is an essential part of their overall health and well-being.

Shedding helps reptiles accommodate growth as their bodies change shape and expand in size. It also gets rid of toxins, bacteria and other harmful hitchhikers that may be living on their body or scales.

Reptiles can usually shed their skin on their own, although sometimes they might need a little help from you. They will rub against things like rocks, plants and other objects to loosen their skin and then they can just pull it off. This is true for most reptiles, including lizards, snakes and turtles (though turtles tend to have more leathery skin that can feel quite slippery when wet).

If your reptile has trouble shedding its old skin, it’s a sign that something might be wrong with its health or environment. If it doesn’t shed properly, it will become stuck around its eyes, digits or tail ends and can eventually cut off blood flow. Infection is the worst outcome, but even mild cases can lead to gangrene and death. Reptiles that have difficulty shedding are said to suffer from dysecdysis and it is important that you monitor their health closely during this time.

How do reptiles get rid of their old skin?

Reptiles get rid of their old skin through a process called moulting. During moulting, they remove the outer layer of their skin and replace it with a new layer. They can do this by rubbing against rough surfaces or scraping themselves on their environment to loosen up the outer layer of skin. This usually takes days to a couple of weeks to complete.

As they shed their skin, snakes and lizards may rub it off with their paws or tails. They can also get it off by soaking in water to help loosen the tough pieces. Some reptiles may even change color during the shedding process as an indicator that they are about to lose their skin.

Once the shedding process has started, it is very important that the reptile be left alone. Reptiles that are disturbed or have their shed skin pulled off can cause major problems. This is because the intact segments of the shed can restrict blood flow and cause infections or even death in some cases. For example, a snake that has band of stuck shed wrapped around its toes or tail can cause it to die.

Some people have also believed that snakes are reincarnated during the shedding process, since they are able to grow after shedding their old skin. While this is not true, it is interesting to think about the fact that some ancient civilizations thought that snakes were re-born when they shed their skin!

What can I do to help my reptile get rid of their old skin?

Just as humans shed fur or hermit crabs shed their shells, reptiles shed skin too. However, unlike cats and dogs who shed their coats periodically throughout the year, reptiles usually lose all of their outer skin at one time. That’s why it’s important to watch out for the signs of problem shedding (also known as Dysecdysis).

A few assistive measures, such as giving your reptile a shallow bath with an antimicrobial spray, can help with this process. This helps the old skin rub off more easily and may eliminate a lot of the need for manual removal of the final patches of skin that remain firmly attached to your reptile.

Another way to help your reptile is to add a layer of Shed-Ease to their water bowl or tank. This product is rich in emollients that make the old skin easier to shed off. Putting your reptile in a shallow, lukewarm bath for 20 minutes will also soften the old skin and make it much easier to remove.

Shedding is a natural, necessary process for all reptiles. Keeping an eye out for problems with it will not only help you be a more informed pet owner, but it will also make your pet healthier and happier. Just like a fever, if your reptile’s molting doesn’t go smoothly, it’s best to consult with a herp vet about the potential cause.