How to Tell If Your Lizard Is Ready to Shed

Have you ever wondered how to tell if your pet lizard is preparing to shed its skin?

The truth of the matter is, all lizards shed their skin as they grow. This is because as the animal grows, its skin actually doesn’t grow with it, so when the animal outgrows the old skin, it becomes time for a new one. In scientific terms, this process is called ecdysis.

Some lizards will shed in a fast, singular fashion (i.e. shed their entire skin in a single session), but most shed their skin in pieces and the whole process may take several days to complete.

gecko shed comparison
These are both tangerine morph leopard geckos. The gecko on the left is grey and dull because it is preparing to shed. The gecko on the right however is displaying its natural vibrant orange coloration. Can you see the difference?

Signs Your Lizard is Going to Shed

Nearly all lizards will become duller in coloration. Normally shiny and even iridescent scales will become matte and have a grey cast to them. This is a classic sign and because it affects your lizard’s physical appearance, most pet owners will notice right away.

fat tail gecko shedding
This African Fat Tail Gecko (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) is preparing to shed. Normally this species of gecko is brown, but this guy is very dull and grey because he is in his pre-shed phase.

Your lizard’s behavior will also change. Many will refuse food for a day or two prior to shedding. Sometimes they will also become lethargic. They’ll probably be more secretive and will also dislike being handled or disturbed, so we recommend leaving them be until the process has finished.

What to Do When Your Pet Lizard Sheds

Due to temperament changes, we recommend minimal handling of your lizard during the shedding process.

Because the lizard will most likely refuse food, be sure to remove any crickets and other insects that aren’t being eaten. Crickets are known to nibble on vulnerable lizards, so if you don’t want your lizard to come to unnecessary harm, we recommend following this rule.

If your lizard is not grumpy, you can help it get rid of small pieces of skin that are loosely attached, but certainly don’t pull off pieces that are still hanging on to the animal as this could be painful.

chameleon shedding
Although this male Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) might appear bright, in truth, they are generally much more of a brilliant blue tone. This particular chameleon will begin his shed process in a few days, so he is much duller than normal.

Problem Shedding

Sometimes your lizard might have trouble getting rid of its shed skin. An improper shed is called dysecdysis and can be dangerous to your lizard.

A number of things can actually cause dysecdysis ranging from improper humidity conditions to an ill animal.

If you feel that your lizard is suffering from an incomplete shed, we recommend veterinary attention, however there are home remedies you can try. Make sure that the lizard has plenty of accessories to rub itself against as it will use these items to help stubborn skin pieces fall off. Provide a bowl of water large enough for the animal to soak in, or alternatively, give the lizard  mandatory soaking sessions in lukewarm water.

leopard gecko shed
Fun fact: When leopard geckos shed they actually eat the skin they lose. They are master recyclers!


All lizards shed as a part of their natural growth process. When you notice signs that your lizard is going to shed (i.e. change in appetite and dull coloration) try to disturb the animal as little as possible. And keep an eye out for incomplete sheds, which could be a sign of a larger issue in the lizard’s habitat.