The Truth Behind Hazel Eyes


Hazel eyes, one of the more mysterious eye
colors, are as unique as they are beautiful. But what’s the science behind this one-of-a-kind
eye color? Is having hazel eyes common or rare? And why is it that they seem to change color? Here’s the truth about hazel eyes. Whereas people with brown, blue, and green
eyes usually only appear to have one color in their iris, people with hazel eyes have
several. Additionally, having hazel eyes is less about
color and more about how color is distributed within the iris. And that can have some significant variation,
as there’s a lot at play when it comes to how hazel eyes appear. Specifically, the hazel pattern begins with
a ring of color around the pupil, usually brown. Then, as you move away from the pupil and
out toward the rest of the eye, the color will shift into green, sometimes with an additional
ring of amber in between. This burst-like pattern is what makes hazel
eyes distinct from green ones, which don’t have the same kind of color shift and are
monochrome in appearance. That’s not to say that people with different
eye colors can’t have variation in their irises, as they certainly can. But this unique variation is how it works
for the hazel-eyed folks out there. Interestingly enough, as diverse as hazel
eyes appear, there’s actually only one color in the irises of people with hazel eyes, and
that’s brown. That brown color comes from a pigment that’s
called melanin, which is responsible for how dark or light a person’s skin is as well. The more melanin you have in your iris and
your skin, the darker both will appear. That explains a lot. Okay, but if there’s only one color in a hazel
iris, why do we see green, yellow, and sometimes even a hint of blue? You can chalk that up to a phenomenon called
the Tyndall effect, a principle similar to the one that works to make both the ocean
and the sky look blue. Essentially, the way that light is scattered
combined with the amount and placement of melanin determines how hazel eyes appear. So where there’s brown, there’s a lot of melanin. Where there’s yellow and green, there’s less
melanin and light being scattered in combination. And if there’s blue, there’s no pigment at
all, at least not in the front layers of the iris. Fascinating, no? There are plenty of models, musicians, actors,
and actresses with hazel eyes out there, and that’s not surprising. Hazel eyes are, after all unique and multi-faceted,
especially in their more rare expressions. But the reality is that hazel eyes are over-represented
in the media, as not many people are lucky enough to have this distinct phenotype. In fact, scientists estimate that only five
percent of the world’s population has hazel peepers. That’s in comparison to the 79 percent of
people on earth who have brown eyes, dwarfing every other eye color with its dominance. And in addition to that, eight to ten percent
of the world’s population have blue eyes, most of them living in various European countries
like Finland, Estonia, Ireland, and Scotland. So hazel-eyed folks, celebrate yourselves! You’re a rare bird, indeed. Despite the fact that having hazel eyes is
not very common, there are several other eye colors that are far more rare. Given how complex and complicated genetics
can be, that’s not exactly a shock, though it certainly is an intriguing factoid you
should feel free to pull out at parties. “Question: What kind of bear is best?” “That’s a ridiculous question.” “False. Black bear.” To start, roughly the same percentage of the
world’s population have amber eyes, five percent, thanks to lipochrome, a yellow pigment that
makes the iris look yellow or coppery. However, this is more common in animals like
dogs, cats, fish, and birds than it is in humans. After that, folks with green eyes clock in
at two percent, thanks to lipochrome, low melanin levels, and the way light scatters
in the eye. Finally, there are three eye colors that are
so rare that less than one percent of the population has them: gray eyes, red, and violet
eyes, which are often only in people with a severe form of albinism, and heterochromia,
which means a person has two different-colored eyes. Truly those are one in a million. You’ve probably noticed that often, hazel
eyes appear to change color. That’s certainly the case with Tyra Banks,
for example, whose eyes can appear super green in some pictures, while they sometimes look
more yellow and brown in others. The same is true for Jada Pinkett Smith, who
passed on her riveting hazel peepers to her daughter, Willow Smith. Of course, science has a reason for that. Hazel eyes change color based on environmental
factors such as the color of objects in a room and the amount and type of light that
is filtering into the iris. Additionally, the color shift is also dependent
on how much melanin is in the iris. So if a person with hazel eyes with minimal
melanin in their eye is wearing a green dress, their eyes will appear greener. And if a hazel-eyed person with a lot of melanin
in their eye is wearing a brown dress, their eyes will look more brown. Boom, mystery solved! In elementary school, middle school, or high
school, chances are you were taught that eye color is dependent on dominant and recessive
genes, and were forced to diagram a bunch of Punnett Squares to prove it. It followed, then, that brown eye color is
dominant over all other eye colors, including hazel. So according to that model of genetic determination,
blue-eyed parents couldn’t have brown-eyed offspring, and brown-eyed parents could only
have blue-eyed, green-eyed, or hazel-eyed offspring if they both carried the recessive
gene for those eye colors. But as it turns out, that model was way over-simplified
in some ways and totally wrong in others. The newer, more accurate genetic research
that’s available about how we get eye color shows that there are 16 genes in play that
make this determination. That means that eye color isn’t determined
by a simple recessive or dominant gene; rather, it’s reliant upon variations of several genes
and how they interact with one another. That’s why it’s possible for blue-eyed parents
to have children with hazel eyes. It’s all in the genes! “Sometimes I feel like I have comedy in my
genes, along with brown eyes, soft teeth, and weak joints.” Although having hazel eyes is a beautiful
thing, there are some things that come with this phenotype that aren’t quite as lovely. For example, brown-eyed and hazel-eyed women
are more sensitive to pain than lighter-eyed folks. Who knew eye color could be linked to something
like that? There’s no end to how unpredictable genetics
are and how far-reaching the impact of them can be on people. But they are indeed connected, according to
an article published in The Journal of Pain. In the study, which was conducted at the UPMC
Magee Women’s Hospital, researchers surveyed a total of 58 expectant mothers who were planning
to deliver their babies there. They divided the women into two groups, 24
in the group with hazel and brown eyes and 34 in the group with light-colored eyes. The aim was to study postpartum and antepartum
pain, sleep, coping behavior, and mood. The results? As it turns out, women with lighter eyes had
an easier time giving birth than their darker-eyed counterparts. Additionally, they were less prone to anxiety
and depression, all thanks to having less melanin in their irises. Wild, huh? “What do I do?” “Yes?” “What do I do?” “Nothing, dear, you’re not qualified!” “Leave it to us!” Just as folks with hazel eyes are more sensitive
to pain, they are also more sensitive to alcohol. Though it’s a little more complicated than
it sounds. In a study published in the journal Personality
and Individual Differences, researchers looked at two sets of archival data: one group was
comprised of 10,860 white men, who happened to be prison inmates, and the other was made
up of 1,862 white women who responded to a national survey. What they found was that in both samples,
light-eyed folks drank much more alcohol than hazel-eyed and brown-eyed people. The reason? Lighter-eyed individuals are less sensitive
to alcohol’s effects, which, in turn, made them consume more of it. That also means that hazel-eyed folks are
less prone to developing a physical alcohol dependence. Nothing wrong with being a little more efficient! “Make mine a gin and Sonic, please, that’s
gin with a little hamburger in it. What have I got to lose besides another foot?” To the women with hazel eyes out there currently
partnered to a blue-eyed man: your relationship beat the odds, at least according to science. Blue-eyed men find blue-eyed women more attractive
than they do women with any other eye color, according to a study in the journal Behavioral
Ecology and Sociobiology. Blue-eyed men were the outliers too, as blue-eyed
women didn’t have a preference for their partner’s eye color. Neither did brown-eyed and hazel-eyed men
and women. So what exactly is going on here? Fortunately, the researchers have a theory
about why this is the case, and it’s one which sheds a little light on this strange mystery. They believe that blue-eyed men’s preference
for ladies with the same phenotype is born out of a need to be confident in their child’s
true paternity. In other words, if the blue-eyed man’s baby
has blue eyes, he will be more convinced that it’s biologically his. That’s because two blue-eyed parents may be
more likely to have a blue-eyed child than not, although the latter is a possibility
nonetheless. Those of the hazel-eyed persuasion don’t hail
from one specific ethnic group or race. People of just about any race or ethnicity
can be lucky enough to score a set of hazel peepers, as evidenced by the many celebs who
have them. For one, Empire actor Terrence Howard has
a lovely pair of hazel-colored peepers, and he’s biracial. Additionally, the super gorgeous model Daje
Barbour has an exquisite set of hazel eyes, and he’s African American. As for other folks, Gilmore Girls and Supernatural
star Jared Padalecki has some arresting hazel eyes, and he’s white. Movie tough guy Danny Trejo also has an especially
lovely hazel-green eye color, and he’s a proud Latino. South Korean actress Lee Sung Kyung is also
in the hazel club, proving that hazel eyes are truly universal. For some of us, the eye color that we present
with at birth is the same that it will be for the rest of our lives, but that’s not
the case for everyone, according to an article posted by McGill University For white or other
less-melanated people, it’s not uncommon at all for babies to be born with blue eyes that
can later turn different colors, including hazel. That’s because it can take a while for melanin
to be deposited into the iris, which usually is completed after about six months. At that time, a baby’s eyes can turn green,
hazel, gray, or brown. And in some cases, it can take much longer
for eye color to fully develop, sometimes into adulthood. That’s just one more mystery that melanin
brings to the genetic table. Although having light-colored eyes is considered
to be quite beautiful, it can come with its own set of risks and vulnerabilities. To that end, it’s important to point out that
people with hazel eyes who have more melanin in their eyes are less prone to some risks
than hazel-eyed folks with super light-colored eyes. It’s just the luck of the draw. Specifically, if you have light-colored eyes,
including light eyes with a hazel pattern, you’re more at risk for some kinds of cancer. That’s because the lighter your eye color,
the more light-sensitive your eyes are, so you need to take precautions. Dr. Ruth Williams, an ophthalmologist at the
Wheaton Eye Clinic in Chicago, says: “Clinically speaking, people with blue or
light-colored irises do tend to be more light-sensitive. This is likely due to the sparsity of light-absorbing
pigment in the eye. The more pigment you have, the less light
gets through the iris…People with light iris color need to be diligent in wearing
UV-protected sunglasses.” So in other words, protect your hazel peepers,
especially if they’re greener than they are brown. It’s just better to err on the side of caution,
and stay safe. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more List videos about health and
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9 Comments

  1. some hazel eyes are more green than what you guys call green eyes , in green eyes video most of them had blue and a bit of green

  2. I have hazel gold eyes but sometimes their more green/ yellow which seems to draw a lot of attention I’m 3/4 Cherokee

  3. I have hazel/green/blue eyes and they change colour on a daily basis. It's the first comment I hear when meeting people…"your eyes…". Some people get really freaked…
    Good wishes for your health ~ from Tucson!

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