Updated on  February 22, 2024
7 min read

What Causes Hazel Eyes?

7 sources cited
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Have you ever stopped to appreciate the beauty of hazel eyes? This mysterious, captivating eye color is truly a sight to behold. Read on if you’re curious to learn more about this eye color.

This article will dive deep into what makes a pair of hazel eyes. It will also include their genetic makeup, some stunning photo examples, and fascinating facts surrounding them all.

Different factors cause or influence your eye color, resulting in hazel eyes. These include:


At least 16 different genes influence eye color. Your genes control how much melanin pigmentation your iris produces—the thin, circular structure in your eye that gives it its color. 

Hazel eyes are a dominant trait. A single copy of the gene for hazel eyes is enough to make your eye color this shade. That means if one of your parents has hazel eyes, it’s likely their children will, too.

When two blue-eyed parents or a brown-eyed couple conceive a child, the chances of that child having hazel eyes are less. However, it’s still possible. If both brown-eyed parents carry a copy of the gene for hazel eyes, their child will likely have this eye color.

Amount of Melanin

The amount of melanin and how it’s dispersed in the iris cause different colors. There are two varieties of melanin:

  • Eumelanin. Eumelanin produces brown eyes when abundant and blue eyes when more diffused in the iris.
  • Pheomelanin. People with higher levels of pheomelanin can seem to have eyes with a yellow tint.

In people with hazel eyes, both types of melanin are present. However, they’re in different amounts and at other parts of the iris. The more melanin you have in your iris, the darker your eyes are. 

People with the most have melanin brown eyes. Those with the least have green or blue eyes (they’re also the rarest eye colors). That gives their eyes the combination of brown (or yellow) and green they’re known for.

Light and Sunlight

Exposure to sunlight can affect the amount of melanin in your eyes. Specific lighting can also change their appearance, making them lighter or darker.

However, the sunlight doesn’t change your eye color. Instead, it affects how they appear. For instance, you may notice that darker eyes look hazel when you’re in bright sunlight.

Health and Medical Conditions

Your eye color can also change due to certain medical conditions. For instance, Fuchs’ heterochromic iridocyclitis is an autoimmune disorder that can cause eye color to change.

Depending on the inflammation, those with this condition can experience the iris lightening or darkening. Your eyes may also turn hazel due to this condition.

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Hazel eyes are usually a mix of brown and green. However, there are varieties of this eye color. Some people may have more brown in their eyes, while others may have more green.

Are Hazel Eyes Rare?

Hazel eyes are rare, with only about 5% of the world’s population having them.

This makes hazel the second rarest eye color worldwide. 

Though anyone can have them, hazel eyes occur most in those whose ancestry is from North Africa, the Middle East, Brazil, and Spain.

Why Are Hazel Eyes Considered Special?

Hazel eyes possess a unique, captivating charm. They look mysterious since they seem to change color depending on the light. This makes people with hazel eyes even more alluring and attractive.

Further, hazel eyes are considered unique and beautiful due to their versatility. They’re not too light nor too dark. The combination of brown, green, and yellow hues creates a gorgeous eye color that’s impossible to ignore.

Types of Hazel Eyes

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Hazel eyes can be divided into two primary categories: brown as the dominant hue in the iris and green as the dominant tint.

The brown variety of hazel eyes is more common, ranging from golden brown to light brown or dark chocolate. Green hazel eyes are less common and range from olive to yellow-green or light gray-green.

In short, all hazel eyes possess a blend of green and brown shades. However, the variation in dominant colors gives hazel eyes the ability to appear predominantly green or brown.

What’s the Difference Between Green and Hazel Eyes? 

The difference between hazel eyes and other eye colors is how the pigment is spread out. 

Green Eyes

Green eyes are more evenly dispersed and scatter the light that hits them in a way that looks green to an observer. Hazel eyes also have areas of green, but their uneven distribution of pigments produces areas of brown or gold as well.

One color may appear as a ring around the pupil, while the others may be on the outer edges of the iris. There may even be colored flecks within the iris. People sometimes mistake them for green eyes for this reason.

Brown Eyes

Compared to hazel eyes, brown eyes have more melanin than any other eye color. This is the primary reason they appear dark brown or black.

Brown eyes do not have any green, blue, or gold flecks within them like hazel eyes do.

Are People With Hazel Eyes More at Risk for Eye Problems?

People with light-colored eyes are more susceptible to ocular melanoma, also known as eye cancer. This is cancer of a layer of the eye called the uvea.6

This is because those with light-colored eyes have less melanin, a natural pigment that protects the eye. Without the protection of melanin, people with light eyes are at greater risk for developing ocular melanoma.

Fortunately, ocular melanoma is rare, affecting only six of every million people in the U.S. each year.6 That said, it’s still essential for people with hazel eyes to visit the eye doctor regularly.

During an eye exam, your doctor can spot any potential problems and make sure your eyes are healthy. They may also recommend wearing sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from UV radiation.

Changing Your Eye Color With Contacts

While your natural eye color is permanent, that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Colored contacts are an option for those who want to experiment with a different eye color. 

Colored contacts come in a variety of colors, from subtle to bold, natural-looking, and not. They’re often used in the movie industry and can be fun to experiment with different eye colors. 

Non-prescription colored contacts are illegal in the United States, so you need a prescription before buying one. After getting your prescription, you buy a pair online, in costume shops, and in other stores selling colored contacts.

How to Make Hazel Eyes Stand Out

Here are some ideas on how to highlight your hazel eyes if you want them to stand out:

  • Wear colors that bring out your eyes. Wearing complementary colors makes your eyes stand out. Try using shades of brown, green, blue, and purple to highlight your eyes.
  • Use fake lashes. Fake lashes make your eyes look bigger. They also draw attention to your eyes so that people will notice them more.
  • Use colorful eyeshadow. Hazel eyes can try shades like green, copper, pink, purple, and brown. To accentuate hazel eyes that have more of a greenish tint, apply purple or pink hues to make them stand out. If it leans towards a warmer tone, enhance its natural beauty with golden browns and shades of green.

Which Celebrities Have Hazel Eyes?

Many gorgeous celebrities have mesmerizing hazel eyes. Here are some of the most popular celebs known for their magnificent hazel peepers:

  • Ben Affleck
  • Demi Moore
  • Tyra Banks
  • Rihanna
  • Kevin Jonas
  • Mila Kunis
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Lady Gaga
  • Dianna Agron
  • Rebel Wilson
  • Zendaya


Hazel eyes are a mix of brown and green. Different factors can cause these colors to be more prominent, but your genes determine them. Hazel eyes are rare, occurring in about 5% of the world’s population. 

You can also use contacts to achieve hazel eyes. However, you must wear them safely and cautiously to prevent potential problems.

Updated on  February 22, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on  February 22, 2024
  1. Blok, J. “How Do We Get Our Eye Color?” Popular Science, 2020.
  2. Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Contact Lenses.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2019.
  3. Sarikas, C. “The Science of Hazel Eyes.” PrepScholar, 2019.
  4. 36 Hazel Eyes Facts and Theories You Might Not Know.” Kidadl, 2022.
  5. Ghosh, D. “The World’s Population by Eye Color.” WorldAtlas, WorldAtlas, 2023.
  6. Uveal Melanoma (Ocular Melanoma).” University of Michigan Health.
  7. Rauch, K. “Why Are My Eyes Changing Color?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2023.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.