Snakes shed their skin by brushing against something hard and rough, like a rock, and creating a rip in their skin. Usually, this rip is initiated in the nose and mouth area. A snake continues to work on this rip until it can shed its skin completely. Snakes shed their skin rather frequently. Many snakes shed more than once per year with some species sheddingon a bi-monthly basis.
Snakes shed when they grow too big for their skin, comparable to the way humans outgrow clothing. Humans shed skin cells too. However, instead of losing skin cells as one continuous and noticeable piece, humans lose numerous, tiny skin cells each day. No one really notices this shedding, as human skin cells are small enough to escape observation. Interestingly, snakes shed their old skin when their new skin is formed beneath it. The new skin has the same patterns and colors as the old skin that is ready for shedding. When the old skin is shed, however, it doesnâ€™t look exactly the same as its replacement. It takes on a nearly transparent appearance.
Snakeskin shedding is not always without incident. It is possible for things to go wrong for the snake. For example, if snakes shed when the humidity in the air is too low, the skin can be too dry to shed. Portions of the old skin that remain attached can harbor parasites or provide a breeding ground for diseases. Furthermore, if the tip of the tail fails to shed correctly, it can cut off the snakeâ€™s blood flow over time and actually cause the end portion of the tail to come off.