The shedding of skin, or ecdysis, occurs in all reptiles including snakes. It is a natural process associated with growth and as such, it is dependent upon many factors including: species, age, health, nutrition, reproductive status, and ambient temperature and humidity. Adult snakes tend to shed or "slough" their skins roughly once every month but younger snakes will generally shed more frequently than adults.
Recognizing an impending shed
About a week later, the eyes become clear again and the snake will begin seeking rough surfaces to initiate the shed. Be sure to provide decorations with rough surfaces such as branches and rocks to promote proper shedding. These rough surfaces are used to loosen or dislodge old skin near the nose and then as an anchoring site to slough out of the "old" skin.
This process can take several weeks and the shed skin will come off in a single inverted piece including the eye caps to reveal the new and shiny skin. If the shed is incomplete or there are patches of old skin still attached, examine these areas for external parasites or infections. At this point, it is a good idea to have your snake examined by an experienced reptile veterinarian since improper or incomplete shedding can be a symptom of more serious ailments.
Tips to prevent incomplete shedding
For tropical snakes, misting your snake thoroughly with lukewarm water during the shed cycle can help provide the necessary humidity. You can also create a moist "shedding box" by placing damp moss or paper towels in a well-ventilated box. The humid microclimate provided by the shedding box will help promote a good shed.
Removing patches of unshed skin
Another stress-free method of removing patches of skin is to place your snake between several layers of damp towels and allowing your snake to crawl through the damp towels. The humidity and the friction will gently remove the remaining patches of skin.
Never try to peel the remaining patches of skin, especially retained eye caps or "spectacles." Have your veterinarian or a properly trained individual remove these to avoid damage to the eyes.
Because a healthy snake will shed its skin on a regular basis, you can use this natural phenomenon as a method to monitor the health of your snake. Proper nutrition, husbandry, and environmental conditions all contribute to a healthy shed. If your snake is not shedding properly, spend time to get to the root of the problem and correct any deficiencies. A good shed means a healthy and beautiful snake for years to come.