Chameleon Shedding: Common Myths & Best Practices

In the simplest terms, shedding, or ‘ecdysis’ if we want to get scientific, is when a chameleon replaces its old skin with new skin. You see, our scaly friends don’t have the luxury of growing continuously like we do. As they mature and grow bigger, they need to shed their existing skin to make room for a fresh, new layer.

Think about it like this: Imagine you’re still wearing the clothes you had when you were ten. They’d be quite snug, wouldn’t they? A chameleon’s skin is like those clothes – as they grow, they need to ‘change’ into a new, larger outfit to accommodate their increasing size.

This process is completely natural and a vital part of a chameleon’s life cycle.

How Often Do Chameleons Shed Their Skin?

As an avid chameleon keeper, I’ve witnessed the shedding process firsthand many times. Every chameleon is unique, and the frequency of their shedding depends on several factors. In my own experience and from the experiences of other fellow keepers I’ve chatted with, there are a few general rules.

Young chameleons, especially those in their rapid growth phase, often shed their skin more frequently, as often as every 3 to 4 weeks! Can you imagine that? This is because they are growing at a brisk pace and their old skin can’t keep up with their increasing body size. So, like a child outgrowing their clothes, young chameleons constantly need to “change their outfit”.

Adult chameleons, however, don’t shed as frequently. Once they’ve reached their full size, their skin doesn’t need to make room for growth as often. So, they might shed every couple of months or so. Again, every chameleon is unique, so don’t worry if your chameleon’s shedding schedule doesn’t match these exactly.

How Long Does Chameleon Take to Shed?


The duration for a chameleon to shed its skin varies based on its age and specie. Generally, young chameleons shed their skin at a faster pace compared to adults.

Young chameleons usually shed their skin in as little as 15 minutes!

As they grow older, like us humans, things start to slow down a bit. Depending on the species and size of your adult chameleon, the shedding process can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. In some cases, it could even take longer.

Signs Your Chameleon is About to Shed

Just like other reptiles such as bearded dragons and ball pythons, chameleons shed their skin regularly, and it’s a normal part of their life cycle. But how do you know when your chameleon is about to shed?

Here are three telltale signs to look out for.

1. Change in Color

One of the earliest signs that a shed is imminent is a dulling or darkening of your chameleon’s usually vibrant colors. Now, chameleons are masters of disguise, we know that! But this color change isn’t for blending in; instead, it’s a hint that they’re preparing to let go of their old skin.

From my experience, the greens and blues of my chameleon, Charlie, tend to become less bright a few days before shedding.

2. Lethargic Behavior

When shedding time is near, your chameleon may seem less active than usual. Don’t fret, they haven’t lost their zest for climbing and exploring. Instead, think of it as their “quiet time.” Remember, shedding can be a bit uncomfortable and tiring for them.

Charlie often spends more time lounging under his basking lamp when he’s about to shed.

3. Loss of Appetite

Don’t be surprised if your chameleon isn’t as enthusiastic about mealtime as they usually are. A decreased appetite is another sign that a shed is coming. During this period, it’s essential to continue offering food — they’ll eat when they’re ready. Just make sure the food is easily digestible; you don’t want to add digestive stress to their already full plate.

Trust me, once Charlie has shed, he’s back to gobbling up his crickets with gusto!

4. Rubs Body on Branches

Chameleons will do this to help start with getting the skin off its body. This is why it’s crucial to have smooth branches, as in this case, your Chameleon could harm itself.

5. Scratching Themselves

Consider your Chameleon having a truly irritating itch, and you’ll perceive why they do this. Shedding should be pretty annoying and itchy for a chameleon, so you will see them use their feet to scratch the skin off the sides of their body and behind its head.

Keep an eye out for these signs, and you’ll be able to tell when your chameleon is about to shed. Remember, each chameleon is unique, and they might not show all these signs or might show them differently.

What Do I Do When My Chameleon is Shedding?

The chameleon shedding process can be a bit mystifying, especially for first-time owners. Let me share some personal insights and practical tips on how to best support your chameleon during this crucial phase.

1. Creating the Right Environment

Shedding can be stressful for chameleons, and they need an environment that supports the process. Make sure your chameleon’s habitat is appropriately humid – this can greatly help ease the shedding process. To achieve this, mist their enclosure with a spray bottle a few extra times a day or consider investing in a humidifier.

2. Watch the Diet

Chameleons might have a decreased appetite during shedding. However, it’s essential to keep offering them a variety of nutritious foods. Hydrating fruits like melon can be particularly beneficial at this time. And of course, a generous dusting of calcium and vitamin D3 supplements on their insects will go a long way in keeping them healthy.

3. Handle with Care

Avoid handling your chameleon as much as possible during shedding, as their skin can be quite sensitive. If you absolutely need to move them, be gentle and cautious.

I remember the first time I saw Freddie shedding, and it took all my willpower to not try and help him peel the skin. But believe me, it’s best to let them do their thing!

4. Provide Shedding Assistance

If your chameleon has difficulty shedding in some areas (often around the eyes and the tips of the tail), you can lend a hand. Gently misting these areas with warm water can help, but never pull on the skin. And if the skin doesn’t come off, it’s time to consult a vet.

5. Observe and React

Keep a close eye on your chameleon during this time. Any signs of distress, like changes in color or behavior, could indicate a problem. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t hesitate to contact a vet if something seems off.

Remember, chameleons shedding is a completely natural process and a sign of a healthy and growing creature. With your loving care and the right support, your chameleon should navigate through it smoothly.

Common Problems and How to Address Them


Chameleon shedding is a completely natural process but like any part of pet ownership, it can come with its own set of hiccups. So, let’s discuss some common challenges you might encounter and offer some tried-and-true solutions that have worked for me.

1. Incomplete Shedding

One common issue you might notice is that your chameleon hasn’t completely shed its skin. Small patches of old skin might still cling stubbornly to its body. It’s important to address this because retained skin can potentially cause discomfort or even lead to infections.

Solution: Increase the humidity in your chameleon’s habitat, especially during shedding season. Regular misting, particularly around the shedding period, can greatly assist in the process.

Also, providing a “shower” — by placing their enclosure in the bathroom while you take a warm shower — can boost humidity levels and aid the shedding process. Remember, though, not to peel off the old skin by hand as it can hurt your chameleon.

2. Signs of Stress

Chameleons, being quite private, can sometimes show signs of stress during shedding. These might include loss of appetite, aggression, or unusual color changes.

Solution: Provide plenty of hiding places in their enclosure. Foliage, branches, and even reptile-friendly hammocks can help your chameleon feel secure during this potentially uncomfortable time.

Additionally, try to limit handling your pet while they’re shedding to keep their stress levels low.

3. Dietary Concerns

Your chameleon’s diet can significantly affect its shedding process. A malnourished chameleon may experience irregular shedding.

Solution: Maintain a balanced diet rich in nutrients for your pet. Variety is key – I typically feed my chameleons a mixture of insects, including crickets, mealworms, and the occasional treat of waxworms.

Also, dusting these insects with a calcium supplement ensures they are getting their necessary nutrients, aiding in a healthy shed.

Causes of Problematic Shed in Chameleons


1. Insufficient Humidity

You know how parched you feel when the air’s dry? Well, our chameleon pals feel the same. That lack of moisture can cause a chameleon’s new and old skin layers to stick together, leading to rough sheds. Plus, it can dehydrate them or cause breathing issues. So, let’s keep their environment comfortably humid.

2. Dehydration

Water isn’t just a human necessity. Our chameleon friends need to stay hydrated too. Regularly providing them with water significantly contributes to healthier and smoother shedding. Remember, a well-hydrated chameleon is a happy chameleon!

3. Stress

Just like us, stress affects our reptile buddies, potentially causing problematic sheds. As caring keepers, it’s essential to provide them with a calm, stress-free environment. Trust me, it makes a difference.

4. Illness

A not-so-pleasant shed can signal an underlying illness. If you observe your chameleon shedding skin in an unhealthy way, it’s time to schedule a check-up with your vet. After all, prevention is better than cure, right?

5. Injuries

Sometimes, injuries can make shedding trickier and even lead to skin lacerations. Ouch! We definitely don’t want that. Early detection and proper treatment are key to help our chameleons shed more easily.

6. Parasites

Mites and parasites can also interfere with your chameleon’s shed. If you suspect that your chameleon is suffering from a problematic shed, it’s time for a quick vet visit to rule out any pesky critters.

When to Seek Professional Help

The first sign that should raise your eyebrows is if the shedding process takes longer than expected. Normally, a chameleon completes shedding within 7 to 10 days. If it’s taking significantly longer, or if your pet seems unusually distressed, it’s a good idea to get a vet involved.

Pay close attention to the eyes and mouth. If the skin doesn’t shed fully around these areas or if your chameleon has difficulty opening its eyes or mouth, that’s another sign to seek professional help. These are sensitive areas, and improper shedding can cause discomfort or, worse, lead to infections.

A few other things to watch out for include discolored skin under the shed or if your chameleon exhibits decreased activity or appetite. These could be indications that something is not quite right. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, don’t hesitate to reach out to a vet. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Chameleon Shedding FAQs

Does Shedding Hurt a Chameleon?

Shedding doesn’t cause physical pain to chameleons, but it can be an itchy and irritating process. Picture a really bad itch that you can’t scratch! During this time, they may display signs of discomfort, like hissing or trying to remove the shed skin with their mouths.

Do Chameleons Shed When They’re Stressed?

Shedding is a routine, necessary process for chameleons and not caused by stress. However, the shedding process itself can stress them out. Be sure to look out for signs of stress in your chameleon, like dark color changes, sunken eyes, or a lackadaisical appearance.

Why Do Chameleons Eat Their Shed Skin?

Surprisingly, chameleons sometimes eat their shed skin, recycling it for additional nutrients. And hey, it also serves as a nifty disappearing trick to throw off any predators! So, if you catch your chameleon munching on their old skin, no need for alarm.


Don’t feel overwhelmed – shedding is a natural process and, with a little extra care and attention, your chameleon will sail through smoothly. Remember, the joy of chameleon care is just as much in overcoming these little challenges as it is in sharing the highs of their healthy moments.

By following the aforementioned tips and giving careful attention to your pet chameleon, you can ensure successful sheds. Remember to consider the specific needs of your chameleon species and consistently provide optimal living conditions.

In the event that your reptile continues to struggle with proper shedding despite following the aforementioned tips, it is essential to seek veterinary assistance. Additionally, it would be wise to consult a more experienced chameleon keeper to evaluate your care routine. This individual may be able to identify mistakes that you were previously unaware of.

Implementing these measures could be the key to helping your reptile achieve healthy shedding cycles.

Filled under: Lizards

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