Leopard Gecko Shedding Problems

Updated on May 30, 2019
Reptile Joe profile image

Joe is an avid reptile keeper with over 20 years of experience.

Leopard Geckos are extremely popular reptiles to keep as pets. These reptiles are easy to care for and live for a long time, up to 30 years in captivity. However, these geckos are a bit notorious for losing toes due to shedding problems. The skin around the toes does not shed, and therefore dries out. As it dries, the skin tightens around the toes and begins to act like a tourniquet, cutting off the blood supply to the toes. Eventually, the toe dies from the lack of oxygen carried by the blood, and the toe becomes gangrenous and falls off. Infection can result from this.

As many of you leopard gecko owners know, it is easy to tell when your gecko is going to shed. The skin color will start to dull, almost beginning to look smokey a day or two before shedding is to occur. When the leopard gecko is in this stage, it is important to give your gecko a variety of tools to make a complete shed.

I recommend offering a large, shallow water bowl filled with warm water, and I believe placing moist moss in a hideout are the best opportunities for your gecko to make a complete shed. The moist retreat will provide additional humidity for the gecko to allow the shedding skin to peel off the fresh skin cleanly.

The gecko is rather good at getting the body skin and leg skin off cleanly. The toes, however, will need the warm water bowl to help loosen this skin. The toe skin is difficult for the gecko to remove because they cannot get a good bite on the skin to peel it off. They do not want to bite their toes and licking their toes is not a habit they have. The warm water gets in between the shedding skin and new skin, and more often than not, the toe skin falls off. If the skin does not fall off, there are some methods you can do to help peel the skin off the toes.

The first thing to try is to take your leopard gecko and place him in a large, deep container with a shallow amount of warm water and mineral oil. The oil is thinner than water and has an easier time getting in between the shedding skin and the fresh skin. The oil will then act as a lubricant to allow the skin to peel off. Since the gecko will be walking around, the gecko will be the mixer and make this process successful. However, you may need to intervene. Keep the gecko in this bath mixture of water and mineral oil. Take a cotton Q-tip, dip it in mineral oil, and use the Q-tip as a peeler. Massage each toe, trying to work the shedding skin off.

There is another method that is a bit more difficult and requires patience and skilled hand/eye coordination. Keep giving your leopard gecko warm water to soak in. The warm water will rehydrate the skin, making it soft and plump. Take needle nose tweezers and carefully pinch a piece of loosened shedding skin and slowly pull the skin off. I cannot emphasize how important it is to be gentle and slow. Leopard geckos are hardy, but they do have sensitive skin. The goal is to make the skin as soft as possible before trying this.

Lastly, a realistic view. I want to put this here because I feel if I did not, I would not be giving the whole truth. In the wild, leopard geckos are found missing toes due to shedding problems. Do not beat yourself up if you are unable to remove the shedding skin from your gecko's toes and the toe falls off. It does happen, but when you notice that the toe has fallen off, be sure to keep the wound clean so it can heal without harming your gecko further.

If you have any comments, questions, or want to add to my list of what has worked for you, please post here. Best of luck to all leopard gecko owners.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • My Leo has skin built up near the tip of his tail. I have been trying to bathe him and use a cotton swab to take it off, but It starts to bleed. I don't want to hurt him, but it is getting worse. I fear he will lose the tip of his tail, plus I don't want him to be in pain. What can I do to help him ?

    There are a few things you can try. First, is it built up skin or an infection? My 22 year old leopard gecko recently bit off the very tip of his tail about 2 sheds ago. I cleaned it with betadine, put some neosporin on it, and it healed within 3 weeks with no infection.

    If it is truly just crusty built up skin, take the tail and soak it in mineral oil. Not baby oil. The mineral oil should soften the skin enough to get it off. It worked like a charm for my adult iguana on his spike shed.

    If you can, email me a picture to reptilejoey@gmail.com so I can take a look at what you are dealing with.

  • I have two Leopard Geckos, and one is energetic. The other is slow and seemingly not motivated. Is there anything I can do to help my lethargic gecko or is this behavior normal?

    If they are in the same tank, you should separate them immediately. Remember, most lizards only come together to mate. Any other time brings unneeded stress to the animal. If they are separated and both are eating regularly, then there should be no concern. My gecko was never super energetic and he is still chilling for the last 20+ years.

  • If a toe falls off on a Leopard Gecko, will it grow back? If so, how long will it take?

    Toes do not grow back. The only part of a leopard gecko that will regenerate is the tail. It is very common for them to lose toes whether in captivity or the wild. Just make sure to keep the tank clean and the wound clean so no infection occurs at the sight of the lost toe. My 22 year old leopard gecko is missing three toe tips I think.

  • I wasn’t able to get the skin completely off of one of my lizards toes. It has wrapped itself around tight around the toe causing the top of the toe to be larger and swollen. What should I do? My gecko is not eating as much as she usually does, and I think it is because of this.

    If you have tried soaking and mineral oil and it is still stuck on there, I do recommend using pointed tweezers to get the skin off. These pointed tweezers are so fine that when you pinch the stuck shed, it will almost cut through it without hurting your gecko's toe. The swelling can be reduced by putting the hand in some cool water a few times a day. If it is fairly well along and the toe is looking like it is possibly dead, be observant and as soon as the toe falls of, clean the wound with betadine mixture. If you want to send a picture to my email, I can better assist you. ReptileJoey@gmail.com Cheers.

  • How long does it take for damage to occur from stuck skin on the toe of a leopard gecko?

    It all depends on the severity of the stuck shed. I've seen my gecko eat the tip of his tail getting of shed, so the damage was instant. If the shed stays on the toes for a week or longer, it can act as a tourniquet and cut of blood supply to the toes. The better thing to do is to provide the best temperature and humidity to avoid these issues.

© 2013 Reptile Joe


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    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      Hello! I had a question abour my leopard gecko. For the past few months he's been shedding fine, but the last two he has been having a bit of struggle that pieces of it stuck to his tail and skin around the back legs? I'm not sure if this makes sense, but as he shed again it still stuck around and now his face has a few tiny pieces of shed and its darker and wrinkly along the skin on his tail and legs became increasingly darker, should i be worried? I want to think its him changing skin patterns but his tail was much brighter before now its turning brown. Sorry for so much im just very worried i hope you have a wonderful day.

    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      My sistets leopard gecko is sticky what does taht mean?

    • profile image

      Lurlene Duggan 

      5 weeks ago


      My 4 year old Gecko has stopped eating. She is shedding constantly and hasn't eaten in two months.

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      My leopard gecko has a brown lump covering one of his toes at the end what should I do

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      My Gecko is having trouble shedding his head. Should I worry or take him to a vet

    • profile image


      7 months ago

      My gecko is having trouble shedding the skin on his head. Should I worry. It is off every where else

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      Thank You

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      We just got our leopard gecko 2 weeks ago, its a juvenile. We noticed he has not pooped in 2 days and he is starting to get a dull color so thinking he might be beginning to shed - should we be concerned he has not pooped?

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      Hello. I have a leopard gecko that is only about 3 and a half years old. He sheds a lot, at least a few times every two weeks. He doesnt eat much either. He did have a problem with sand blockage which has gone now and we replaced the sand with artificial grass flooring. Do you have any advice? I just want to know why he is shedding so much, I'm getting worried.

    • Reptile Joe profile imageAUTHOR

      Reptile Joe 

      15 months ago from Illinois

      @Niamh: put your gecko in a small box with warm water and spray all aides of the container to increase the humidity. Let it soak. Do this daily. Also, provide a humid hide box to help get the skin soft.

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      my juvenile leopard gecko has a bit of skin on one of his toes but it's slightly coming off, he also has skin on his eyelids, I gently tried to get it off but it wouldn't budge, It's kinda scary. Someone please help

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      My lizard sometimes doesen't eat and there was a lot of skin wrapped around her toes, we took it off but it did cause her to loose one two toes, don't stress about that. If your lizard is not standing up straight then you can feed her but sprinkle some calcium on her food, this will help her bones grow stronger. If you have any questions just comment them or gmail me at addison.taylor61@gmail.com, thanks for reading! :)

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      My lizard is not moveing and have been shedding a lot she is not shedding it her hidehole we are very concerned she looks more fat compared to the other lizard please help me

    • Reptile Joe profile imageAUTHOR

      Reptile Joe 

      17 months ago from Illinois

      @Devyn. Go out and buy the mineral oil and Q-tips. This leopard gecko is now your responsibility. The quicker you solve this problem, the healthier and happier your leopard gecko will be.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      My Leo has shed skin build up on his toes. To be more specific its at the tip of his toe nail and at the bottom of his finger i thought a bath would be a good idea like you said then you said itd be best to use mineral oil and warm water and a q-tip i dont have q-tips atm and no mineral oil and my leo is still fairly new (he or she) has been with me for nine days this is my first gecko i need help please responde as quick as you can thanks.

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      When a Geko is a pet do they still need to eat there skin a women told me that they have to eat it to give them vitamins an minerals. Then to night i read that they eat so that it dosnt atract predetors ?.

    • Reptile Joe profile imageAUTHOR

      Reptile Joe 

      18 months ago from Illinois

      You can try to soak an old rough towel in warm water and let him walk on that. The friction from the towel may help to remove any unwanted skin without you having to hold him. Even if he is not tame, it is more important to help him and risk getting bit. It's part of owning these little guys.


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