Do tortoises shed skin?

A lot of our readers have been asking about their tortoises skin peeling. Some owners see whitish flakes of skin and are concerned that their tortoises have developed a skin condition. Others are enquiring about whether tortoises shed a coat of skin like some other reptiles (e.g. lizards) do.

Tortoises do shed their skin. This happens at a faster rate when they are growing. The old skin is replaced with new, and peels off in white flakes. (However, peeling skin with any sign of inflammation, discoloration or bleeding is probably something else.)

Tortoises don't shed their skin in as dramatic a fashion as some other reptiles.

Tortoises don’t shed their skin in as dramatic a fashion as some other reptiles.

Skin-shedding is a perfectly normal and harmless process that will happen just fine on its own. However, you may like to speed it along by giving your tortoise a bath in lukewarm water and a gentle scrub with an old toothbrush. This helps remove the old, dead skin, giving the tortoise’s skin a fresher feel (my girlfriend tells me this is called ‘exfoliating’ in the beauty industry).