Reptiles shed their skins (ecdysis) as they grow and throughout their entire lives. Unlike people, whose skin cells slough off one at a time, many reptiles like crested geckos tend to go into shed all at once. Geckos will usually eat their skins, which may leave you with the impression that your gecko never sheds! Eating their sheds helps recapture some of the nutrients that went into creating new skin. Eating the shed also minimizes the chance of a predator coming across it so minimizes their chances of becoming prey.
While shedding, they can become less “sticky” from going into shed. If given the proper humidity, temperatures and diet, they should be able to shed on their own. Sometimes molting can go wrong, leaving bits of stuck skin all over the body, with the problem areas being the toes and tails. When a crested gecko has a bad shed, they may need your help or the skin may constrict blood flow, leading to loss of toes, tail tips or even an entire foot (very rare). This usually occurs when the gecko is young, as hatchlings and juveniles can dry out quickly and not have adequate moisture to shed completely. Baby crested geckos shed more often than adults as they are actively growing. You may not see them shed, but generally they do so once every other week. Adults can go for a month or more without shedding. You might catch your gecko in the act of shedding at night, when they are half in and half out of their old skin!
Removing Stuck Shed
If you see your gecko with stuck shed on his toes or tails, you can help him out by putting them in a Tupperware or similar container with a small amount of lukewarm water and a paper towel. Make sure it’s not deep enough where they can drown! Leave them in this bath for 20 minutes or so to see if that helps. Use a Q-tip to rub around the stuck shed as needed. You might need to let the skin dry out before trying to peel it off, as when it is wet it becomes stretchy and elastic. It may not pull off easily.
You can repeat this every other day, as needed.
Sometimes this bath is called a “sauna” as very little standing water is used, it’s more for increasing the humidity than for soaking. BUT be sure to not use hot or even warm water as crested geckos are very susceptible to heatstroke when exposed to temperatures above 85 degrees, even briefly. The water will feel cool to you because human body temperature is 98 degrees – way too hot for a crested gecko!
Maintaining Healthy Sheds
To make it easier for your gecko to shed on his own, try putting something slightly rough in the enclosure, such as a rock or piece of large gravel – washed – from the outside. Commercial branches and other tank ornaments can also help. Keep a water bowl in the enclosure so there is always adequate humidity and a drink available when they need it. Dehydration is a silent killer, and problem shedding can be a sign of dehydration. However, some geckos just seem to have a harder time than others so be sure you monitor growing juveniles at every feeding.