4 Ways to Help A Leopard Gecko Shed

Reviewed by Dr. Jerry Ayaebi, DVM

Stuck shed is one of the most common problems when keeping leopard geckos. You will probably encounter it at least once, especially if this is your first pet lizard.

For the first few months, my leopard gecko consistently had shedding problems. It took a trip to the vet to figure out the cause! My humid hide had no rough surfaces for my gecko to rub on while shedding. After I modified her humid hide, she had no more trouble.

Luckily, helping leopard geckos shed is straightforward and stuck shed is simple to treat.

Key Tips

  • There are several at-home remedies to help leopard geckos shed, including humid hides, soaking and commercial reptile sprays. If at-home treatments are not working, take your gecko to a vet for help. Don’t try to peel off the skin yourself.
  • Stuck shed (dysecdysis) happens when the old layer of skin fails to separate from the skin underneath. The tips of the toes and tail are the two most common places where retained shed happens. If not removed, it can restrict blood flow over time and damage these body parts.
  • Shedding problems are often caused by low humidity, a vitamin A deficiency or illness.

How To Help A Leopard Gecko Shed

Leopard gecko humid hide
A humid hide is a must-have for successful shedding. It is very easy to make one if you do not have one already!

If your leopard gecko has patches of shed skin that aren’t coming off, the best way to help is by giving them access to a humid hide in their tank. For serious cases, you can also try at-home treatments like:

  • Soaking
  • Applying a shedding aid
  • Temporarily raising tank humidity levels

In my 14 years of keeping leopard geckos, I have never seen one develop a serious shedding problem if given a humid hide and fed the right diet.

The only time I have seen shedding problems was my rescue, Sonora. She had several layers of stuck skin on her toes (she was even missing a few) and eyelids. However, after several days with access to a humid hide, and a few rounds of the at-home shedding treatments described below, her stuck shed was fully removed!

Dr. Jerry Ayaebi, our exotic reptile vet, says “the head, eyes and limbs are common problem areas.”

1. Humid Hide

A humid hide is an enclosed hide in your leopard gecko’s tank that should consistently be around 80% humidity, twice as humid as the rest of the tank.

The best humid hides are usually made of a plastic container lined with 2-3 inches of a water-holding substrate like vermiculite, sphagnum moss, peat moss, a clean washcloth, or coconut coir. A good tip is to make sure the substrate stays moist, but not soaked. Squeezing the substrate should only return two or three drops of water.

A humid hide doesn’t have to be fancy – mine is an upside-down tupperware container lined with sphagnum moss and strips of coarse-grit sandpaper.

Unfortunately, even when using a humid hide, shedding problems can still develop, especially in leopard geckos kept by first-time reptile owners.

2. Soaking

Soaking is my go-to method for skin that’s stuck on the feet or tail.

To soak your leopard gecko, fill a tupperware container with about an inch of warm water. The water should feel a bit warmer than room temperature. Then gently place your pet in the container and let them soak for 10-15 minutes.

Author’s Tip: Make sure the water is no deeper than your gecko’s chest and that the container is in a quiet room.

The warm water will soften a leopard gecko’s skin and make it more pliable.

If the skin is stuck on the back, you can slowly pour water over it.

After the 15 minutes is up, or the water cools, dry off your leopard gecko and gently rub the skin with a washcloth. With a bit of luck, it will come off! You can repeat the soaking process if necessary, but make sure to give your lizard a three-hour break in between soaks.

3. Shedding Aids

Commercial aids can also help with leopard gecko shedding problems. They work to soften stuck skin so that it can be more easily removed by your lizard. Shedding aids come in the form of sprays and are usually a combination of water, glycerin, vitamin E, and aloe vera.

To use most shedding sprays, mist them directly on the affected patch of skin and carefully massage into the skin.

One of the advantages of shedding aids is that they can be sprayed all over your leopard gecko, from head to toe (though always check the manufacturer’s instructions first). However, we only recommend using aids on isolated patches when needed.

Author’s Tip: Do not use a shedding aid with ingredients that could be harmful if swallowed by your leopard gecko.

Our exotic reptile vet Dr. Jerry Ayaebi says, “Leopard Geckos have the habit of eating their shed skin. Therefore, you should be cautious of the kind of spray you use to avoid ingestion of harmful chemicals.”

I have had great success using Zoo Med’s Repti Shedding Aid to help leopard geckos shed in the past. I used this spray on my rescue gecko (Sonora) when battling some pretty severe stuck shed. I applied it directly on a patch of skin on her back, waited an afternoon, then tried gently rubbing it with a damp washcloth. The patch came off right away!

4. Sauna

A sauna works the same way as a soak, but is a better choice for skin that’s stuck on the face, back, or other places that are hard to reach through soaking.

Start by finding a lidded plastic container big enough for your leopard gecko to fit in comfortably (a 7” by 5” box is usually a good size). Line the container with warm, damp paper towels. The paper towels can be wetter than the substrate used in a humid hide and should release a small stream of water when squeezed.

Place your pet in the container and cover it loosely with a lid.

Keep your leopard gecko in this ‘sauna’ for up to 20 minutes, or until the paper towels lose their heat. After 20 minutes, try gently rubbing the skin with a damp paper towel or washcloth.

You can repeat this treatment 2-3 times with an hour break in between sessions, using fresh, warm water each time.

Common Shedding Problems

Leopard Gecko with Shedding Problems
Never try to peel off stuck skin from your leopard gecko!
  • In my experience keeping leopard geckos, stuck toe shed is the most common type of shedding problem. Even with a proper humid hide, their claws can sometimes trap shed on the tips of their toes. Stuck toe skin can be hard to spot, especially in light-colored specimens with pale feet. After each shed, I make sure to take my leopard gecko out of her enclosure and inspect her feet for bits of stuck skin.
  • Stuck tail shed is another common problem, though I haven’t seen it as often as stuck skin on the toes. If old skin is stuck on the tail, it usually happens at the tail tip.
  • Patchy shedding is less common than retained skin and is normally a sign of low humidity. In healthy leopard geckos, the old skin peels off in one or two large pieces and is fairly soft and stretchy. When humidity is too low, the skin dries out and flakes off in multiple peices.
  • Constriction happens when the shed stays on your leopard gecko’s toes, legs, or tail for too long. It gradually cuts off blood flow to the tissue, leading to possible infection or even loss of the affected limb or toe. Luckily, I’ve never had constriction happen in a leopard gecko with access to a humid hide.

When Should You Help?

It is best to treat stuck shed before your lizard sheds again.

Give your leopard gecko a thorough inspection after each shed to catch any pieces of stuck skin. Pay special attention to the tips of the toes; these are the areas that I have noticed often need the most help.

I try to take care of my leopard gecko’s retained shed within a day or two of her shedding.

Keep in mind that the longer you wait to treat it, the harder it will be to remove.

Small bits of retained shed can often be taken care of at home using:

  • Saunas
  • Soaking
  • Shedding aids
  • Raising tank humidity

If your leopard gecko is having trouble shedding, do not try to help by pulling the stuck skin off yourself. This is especially important for skin stuck on the toes, eyelids, or tail, as doing so can easily damage the delicate new skin underneath.

A missing humid hide is almost always the cause of leopard gecko shedding problems.

If your leopard gecko has not finished shedding and still has large patches of retained shed after three days, then it is time for a trip to a veterinarian. Don’t risk injuring them if you are not 100% confident you can treat their stuck skin safely!

Recurring shedding problems can be a sign of an underlying issue like a dry environment (humidity less than 40%) or a deficiency in vitamin A called hypovitaminosis. It is important to get a vet’s advice if your lizard frequently has trouble shedding.

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