What are Hazel Eyes?
It’s often said that eyes are the window to an individual’s soul and by looking at a person’s eyes you can tell what their feelings and personality are. Eyes give a person the ability to see and they also help define beauty, and that is true when you look at the unique color of the eyes. May be you are wondering what hazel eyes are. Well, hazel eyes refer to the color of eyes that have a shade similar to hazelnut shell that tends to appear golden brown or light brown and at times gold. In people with hazel eyes, their pupil may be surrounded with some tinges of green, yellow, or blue color. The pupil of people with hazel eyes appear green or brown when you look at its color. It’s rare to find people with hazel eyes, but their eye color is so unique that it makes them look beautiful and stunning in their appearance.1
Having hazel eyes is something fascinating to look at. You see colors of eyes that are different than what you see with other eye colors. For example, you may see crystal blue or even emerald green color in hazel eye colored people.
Genetic research holds the view that eye colors are in large based on genes that are passed to people as a result of a dominant gene. Iris pigmentation, light dispersion around a person’s iris, and a substance called melanin are other factors that come into play when determining the color of eyes. Melanin is a polymer that is derived from an amino acid known as tyrosine. The color of the eye is as a result of light breaking up across the base of melanin.1
Iris is the colored part of a person’s eye and it has pigmentation to help determine the color of eyes. The iris may have one of six colors which include: brown, amber, gray, hazel, blue, and red. People tend to confuse amber eyes with hazel eyes, but the former have copper or golden color with no flecks of green or blue as seen with hazel eyes. 2
In humans, iris pigmentation varies in color ranging from light brownish to black, and it depends on the melanin concentration within the epithelium of the iris located on the back side of the iris. The color also depends on melanin content found in the iris stroma, which is located in the front of iris. The stroma cellular density is another factor that determines the pigmentation of iris. The appearance of green, blue, or hazel eyes is as a result of light scattering in the stroma and it is similar to what you see with the blue sky or Rayleigh scattering.
In the true sense, there is no blue or green pigment within the human iris but the scattering of light within the stroma is what creates that appearance. This light scattering is known as Tyndall scattering. So, in essence, eye color is just an instance involving structural colors. Eye color is determined by two factors which are the pigmentation of iris and the frequency-depended light scattering in the stroma.3
Eye Color and Genetics
Eye color may be influenced by genetic factors. Changes in the genes referred to as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) help influence the inherited trait of eye colors. It is not known which genes are associated with eye color but there are some suggestions that come in to play. In a 2009 study what was conducted in Rotterdam, it indicated that one can predict eye color for blue and brown with use of only six SNPs and the accuracy level is about 90 percent. In addition to that, there is some evidence suggesting that up to 16 genes are associated with eye color among humans but the main ones are the HERC2 and OCA2 genes both of which are localized within chromosome 15. Various SNPs in OCA2 gene are linked with the green and blue eyes, along with the variations you see in flecking, hair, skin tone, and mole counts. A certain mutation occurring in HERC2 gene (a gene that helps regulate OCA2 expression) may in part be associated with blue eyes.3,6
What Determines Eyes Color?
In those old days when you were in school your science teacher may have told you that people inherit eye color from their parents. You may also have been told that brown color of the eyes is dominant while blue color is recessive meaning two parents having blue eyes are not able to conceive a baby with brown eyes since none of the parents has the gene carrying the dominant brown color of the eyes.
However, recent research seems to give more light on the matter. Up to 16 different genes (not one or two) are said to influence the color of eyes. This makes it difficult to predict the color of eyes. Because of the variations in expression and interaction of multiple genes, it has become difficult to say exactly what the color of the eyes of a child will be, based on the parent’s eyes color.
It is possible that two parents with blue eyes can have a child having brown eyes. This is something the old model regarding color inheritance in children may not have seen it as possible. It is also likely that the color of eyes can change dramatically within the first couple of years after birth. For example, many white, non-Hispanic children born having blue eyes may, after a few years, have brown, hazel, or green eyes as they go through their childhood. 6
The Color of Hazel Eyes
A person with hazel eyes has eyes colors that look similar to hazelnut shell. In the real sense, it is not actually a true color but a combination of various colors. There may be a combination of brown, blue, and green.
The intensity of hazel eyes color may vary from a person to another. People with hazel eyes may have brighter or darker color depending on things like emotions or external factors. Hazel eyes color intensity is affected by lighting, sunlight or even the clothes color. If the hazel eyes reflect colors of the environment such as grass or sky, you may see them look brown or green. The reason there is variation in intensity of hazel eyes color is because they tend to reflect more than other eye colors.4
How Absorption and Scattering of Light Affect Hazel Eyes?
It’s true that there is no hazel, green, or blue pigments in eyes. Eyes have melanin that occurs in different amounts and it gives shades of brown. Melanin itself is dark brown, black, to red or yellow. The question is: how does the dark brown pigmentation result in greenish, bluish, or hazel-ish eyes? Two process are said to contribute to this phenomenon:6
- The melanin within the iris absorbs light of different wavelengths as it enters the eye
- The iris scatters and reflects light, and that – certain wavelengths or colors tend to scatter more easily compared to others.
In eyes having higher concentrations of melanin, they tend to absorb more light that is entering the eyes. This means that less scattering and reflection of light back to the iris takes place. When this is the case, then an individual has brown eye color.
Individuals with lower melanin concentration mean that there is less light being absorbed, which in turn means that more of that light is scattered as well as reflected by the iris. Light rays that have shorter wavelengths (for example, green and blue light) tend to scatter more easily when compared to those light rays having longer wavelengths (for example red light). In this situation, you find that the eyes appear hazel or green because of the less light-absorbing melanin. Also, eyes having low melanin concentrations appear blue.
The distribution of melanin within the different iris parts may cause hazel eyes to have varying colors. For instance, the hazel eyes may have light brown appearance within the area near the pupil and much green appearance within the periphery of the person’s iris.
How Hazel Eyes Relate With Race?
Some races have had shades of eye color associated with hazel eyes which include green, blue, and brown colors. This has been due to the genetic sequencing for those races something that has occurred for many years – probably thousands of years. People of Brazilian, Middle East, Spanish or North Africa origin tend to have higher chances of hazel eyes being found in their family tree. That said, it doesn’t mean that other groups or populations of people can’t have hazel eyes. Any group of people regardless of their origin can have hazel eyes.6
Can You Change Your Eye Color?
You may be curious over whether you can change the color of your eyes. Well, we can say yes and no. The color of the eyes can change when you look at how eye color relates with light scattering across the iris. The clinical presentation of a person’s eye color says that you either have hazel-colored eyes or you don’t. That means you cannot inject or use some form of product make the iris to change its color permanently to greener, lighter, darker, or bluer appearance.
Effects of Health on Eye Color
As people age and their health change, the color of their eyes may also change. It is also important to realize that your eye color can change when you have a condition referred to as ocular glaucoma. You want to visit a doctor or an eye specialist if you have eye problems to get treatment because it can result in a serious condition because of glaucoma degradation.
Health Issues Related to Hazel Eyes
Individuals who have hazel eyes may be more likely to get harm from effects of the sunlight. This is because of the melanin. Also, people having hazel eyes may have certain kinds of ocular cancer for instance intra-ocular melanoma. You may want to wear sunglasses having strong UV protection if you have hazel colored eyes.
Factors Affecting Intensity of Hazel Eyes Color
You may notice that people with hazel eyes have changes in the color of their eyes due to one or several factors. Sunlight, atmospheric conditions, and health may bring changes in hazel colored eyes. The color may change to bright green, dazzling emerald, seaweed amber, or even gray. Here are common factors likely to influence hazel eyes color intensity:5
When you are indoors, you may have artificial light caused by light bulbs and these affect the appearance of your eyes to other people. You may see that shades of hazel eyes are amplified when you are indoors and some other shades are not.
Time of the day
The light produced by the sun, also referred to as celestial orb may impact on the hew of eyes color as well as the intensity. This can be expressed in the solar spectrum.
Your hazel eyes color may become weaker or stronger in intensity depending on the type or color of clothes you wear. If you have clothes colored in gold, greens, or blue, these can make the hazel eyes to have a deeper appearance.
People with seasonal allergies may have changes in their hazel eyes color intensities. Allergies may make the eyes to appear puffy and baggy. Also, allergies may allow you to have reddish hew occurring around the white part of the eyeballs.
The makeup you wear can have a powerful effect on the appearance of the eyes. You may see that the eyes “pop” after you look at them. People with hazel green eyes are recommended to have brown or chocolate eye shadows.
Drugs and alcohol
People who use certain medications or take alcohol and drugs may have changes within their eyes color. You may want to check with a doctor in the ocular appearance is changing when under certain prescription medications.
When you cry or are sad, joyous, or happy it can affect your eyes color appearance. Being overwhelmed with emotions makes the intensity of hazel eyes to change. However, you shouldn’t worry about it because it’s only temporary. When you get rid of the emotions, the color can attain its usual hazel appearance.
If your see that the color of the hazel eyes has changed with no apparent reason or if the pupil appears to be dilated for a longer time, you should see an optometrist.
Celebrities Who Have Hazel Eyes
Probably having hazel eyes may contribute to the fame celebrities have, and it revolves around the beauty part of it. The song “Behind These Hazel Eyes” by Kelly Clarkson in her album Breakaway can show why celebrity’s fame may be associated with the look of their eyes color. People like Angelina Jolie, Jason Statham, Jason Bateman, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tyra Banks, David Beckham, Rebel Wilson, Heidi Klum, Dianna Agron, and Jessica Biel among others have hazel eyes.
Contact Lenses and Hazel Eye Color
People may ask, “Can you change the color of the eyes to hazel using contact lenses?” Well, you can achieve that, but what you should realize is that you are not changing your eyes color but the appearance. Contact lenses come in different colors and you can get some that have different shades of hazel.
When using contact lenses to achieve hazel eye color appearance, it is not just as simple as choosing a particular lens color. You want to know that the eye’s natural color helps determine the kind of lenses you should have to get the hazel appearance.
People with very light eyes can have lens comprising enhancement tints. Such a lens gives a translucent color allowing certain natural colors of the eyes to show through. A lens with enhancement tint is designed to enhance the natural color of the eye. For example, the lens can make light blue eyes to appear deeper blue.5,7
If you feel that the color of the eyes isn’t light enough, you can also achieve a desirable hazel appearance using enhancement tints. You will most likely have lens with opaque tint. Such lens work to mask the eye’s natural color by using a solid version of a desirable color. Opaque tint lenses are used when you need to get a lighter color than what your eye’s natural color is. An important thing to remember here is that contact lenses are prescription items and you need an eye exam before you get them.
- 10 Facts About Hazel Eyes. Available at http://www.thrombocyte.com/hazel-eyes-color-meaning/
- What color are your eyes exactly? Available at https://www.edow.com/general-eye-care/eyecolor/
- Eye color. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_color
- Hazel Eyes. Available at http://healthfixit.com/hazel-eyes/
- Hazel Eyes: Learn Why People with Greenish Eye Color are Rare! Available at https://guycounseling.com/hazel-eyes-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-them/
- Hazel Eyes: What Causes Hazel Eyes, And Who Has Them. Available at https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/eye-color-hazel.htm
- Eye Color Guide – The Most Common Eye Colors. Available at https://www.aclens.com/content/2025/Most-Common-Eye-Color