Updated on  February 20, 2024
4 min read

What Causes Green Eyes: Rareness, Beauty, and More

7 sources cited
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Key Takeaways

  • Green eyes are caused by reflected light combined with low levels of melanin in the iris. There’s no actual green pigmentation in the human eye.
  • Green is the rarest eye color. This may be why green eyes are considered desirable and green-eyed people are perceived as mysterious.
  • Having green eyes won’t affect your vision or your candidacy for LASIK eye surgery.

What Causes Green Eyes?

Human eye color is determined by the level of melanin pigmentation in the iris. Your iris is the thin, ring-like structure in the middle of your eye, giving it its color.

Scientists used to believe eye color was decided by two genes—one from each parent. Now, they know as many as 16 genes influence the amount of melanin produced by the iris. These genes interact in complex ways, making it impossible to predict the color a baby’s eyes will be.

Melanin absorbs light, so irises with high amounts of melanin appear darker. The light that doesn’t get absorbed gets reflected back as short blue wavelengths, giving eyes their color. 

Green eyes appear green because reflected light mixes with low levels of melanin in the iris, not because they contain green pigment.

  • Brown eyes. Have a lot of melanin. They absorb a lot of light, which makes them dark in color.
  • Hazel eyes. Have less melanin than brown eyes, so they appear lighter.
  • Green eyes. Have less melanin than hazel eyes but more than blue.
  • Blue eyes. Have the least amount of melanin and reflect the most light. This makes them the lightest eye color.

Light reflecting off the irises can make it seem like some people’s eyes change color in different settings.

What Green Eyes Look Like (Pictures)

Cute adorable one year old baby with green eyes eating from a bowl
29291348 man with green eyes

How Rare are Green Eyes?

Green is the rarest eye color. Only 2% of the entire world’s population has green eyes.5 Eye color percentages across the world are:5

  • Brown eyes. 70 to 80%
  • Blue eyes. 8 to 10%
  • Hazel eyes. 5%
  • Amber eyes. 5%
  • Gray eyes. 3%
  • Green eyes. 2%

People of European descent represent the largest share of those with green eyes. European Americans with Germanic and Celtic ancestry comprise 16% of all green-eyed people.5

Even though they’re most common in Europe, people with green eyes can be found all over the world, even as far as remote parts of China.

8 Facts About Green Eyes

Here are eight interesting facts about green eyes:

1. They’re Considered Beautiful

Green is considered one of the most beautiful colors for the eyes. A survey of 1,000 people found that blue and green eyes tied for second place on an attractiveness score. Gray eyes got the top spot.4 

According to the same survey, green eyes in women are considered by men to be the most attractive of all eye colors. And people with blue eyes are most likely to wish they had green eyes instead.4

2. Green Eyes Need More Sun Protection

Melanin protects the retina from harsh sunlight. Because they have less melanin, people with green eyes are more vulnerable to UV damage from the sun. Make sure to wear sunglasses.

3. Perceived Personality Traits

According to a survey, people with green eyes are considered:4

  • Adventurous
  • Mysterious
  • Mystical

There’s no scientific data to support a link between personality and eye color. However, pop culture and folklore commonly attribute certain characteristics to green-eyed people.

4. Babies Aren’t Born with Green Eyes

Unlike brown or blue eyes, green eyes don’t appear in children right away. It takes between six months to three years for green eyes to develop.

5. Green Eyes Appear All Over the World 

Liqian, a remote village in Western China, is known for its high percentage of people with green eyes. Some suggest they’re descended from Roman soldiers who got stranded in China, but this isn’t proven.

6. Pop Culture Loves Green Eyes

Some of the world’s favorite heroes and villains have green eyes. Notable green-eyed characters from books and movies include:

  • Harry Potter
  • Catwoman
  • Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger)

7. Green Eyes Don’t Affect Vision

There is no link between eye color and visual acuity. Green-eyed people can have the same vision issues as others, including:

8. Green-Eyed People Can Get LASIK

Having green eyes won’t disqualify you from getting LASIK or any other laser eye surgery. LASIK candidacy has nothing to do with eye color.

What Celebrities Have Green Eyes?

There are a lot of celebrities with green eyes. Some famous names include:

  • Jon Hamm
  • Adele
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • Paul Rudd
  • Jude Law
  • John Krasinski
  • Emma Stone
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Charlize Theron
  • Harry Styles

Changing Your Eye Color With Contacts

For most of human history, people were stuck with the eye color they were born with. Now, it’s possible to change your eye color with non-prescription colored contact lenses

Colored contact lenses are also known as cosmetic, decorative, or costume lenses.  

You’ll have to talk to a doctor about getting colored contact lenses because they’re illegal without a prescription.

Updated on  February 20, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on  February 20, 2024
  1. Blok, J. “How Do We Get Our Eye Color?” Popular Science, 2020.

  2. Contact Lenses.” FDA, 2019.

  3. Is Eye Color Genetic? What Your Eye Color Has to Do with Your History.” Luna, 2019.

  4. Eye Color In the Eye of the Beholder.” Eye Society, 2022.

  5. Ghosh, D. “The World’s Population by Eye Color.” WorldAtlas, 2023.

  6. Uveal Melanoma (Ocular Melanoma).” Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan Health, nd. 

  7. White, D. and Rabago-Smith, M. “Genotype-Phenotype Associations and Human Eye Color.” Journal of Human Genetics, 2010.

The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.