What Are Hazel Eyes? What Color Are They?

Hazel eyes are striking but uncommon. What are hazel eyes? What do hazel eyes look like?

Hazel eyes are light yellowish-brown and green in color, with brown, gold, or green specks peppered at the eyes’ center. They may be mistaken as green or brown eyes as they appear to change color with the brown color bordering the iris’ anterior.

Read on to learn more about the color of hazel eyes, their unique properties, how to know if you have hazel eyes.

What Are Hazel Eyes? What Color Are They?

what are hazel eyes

Hazel eyes often appear as brown or green eyes due to their color combination. However, hazel eyes are colored light yellow-brown with brown, gold, or green speckles at the eyes’ center. The brown color is usually found around the anterior edge of the iris.

Two different factors determine your eye color. One is the scattering of light at the iris’ stroma, and the second is the iris’ pigmentation.

Hazel eyes are not as common as brown eyes as they contain less melanin, but they could originate from any part of the world. 

What Percentage of People Have Hazel Eyes?

Hazel eyes are rare, but green eyes are rarer. Hazel eyes are more infrequent than blue eyes, though, and only 5 percent of the worldwide population has hazel eyes. In the U.S, only 18% have hazel eyes. [1]

You can find hazel eyes worldwide, especially in the Middle East, Spain, Brazil, and North Africa.

Brown eyes are the most common, with around 55% to 80% of the population having brown eyes. Brown-eyed people have more melanin pigment in their eyes than any other color.

How Are Hazel Eyes Inherited?

Eye color, together with your other facial features, is inherited from your parents and ancestors. 

So, if you have hazel eyes and your parents do not, most probably, you have inherited your eye color from someone up your family tree. 

The other reason is that your parents may not be your biological parents. This fact indicates that these two eye colors would result in a heterozygous color, where brown color would predominate. 

Two genes in your body are typically responsible for your eye color: brown/blue and green/hazel. Brown is the most dominant allele, while hazel and green are recessive. The Tyndall light scattering in the stroma results in green, blue, or hazel eyes. 

This effect is similar to the Rayleigh scattering that makes the sky’s color blue. The eye color could also depend on the lighting conditions around you.

Hazel eyes usually reflect two or more eye colors, so you can say it is some heterochromia. The change of colors depends on the amount of light that strikes your eyes and the colors of your outfit.

However, eye color and genetics are not as simple as that, as there are around 16 multiple genes responsible for a person’s eye color. So, you can inherit a variety of colors from your parents. Examples of these genes are the HERC2 and OCA2. [2]

It would not be a surprise to have hazel eyes, even if your biological parents are both brown-eyed. The eye colors of the offspring are more complicated than saying the dominant color generally predominates.

Unlike blood type, where you can say that parents with blood type O can only bear children with blood type O’s, and never A or B; or that parents with blood type A can only bear kids with blood type A or O never type B.

Up to this day, scientists still cannot fully explain the complex genetics of eye color.

What Is Melanin’s Role in Eye Color?

Melanin is a skin pigment that is responsible for eye color as well. Changes in the formation of melanin will either turn your eyes into brown or green. 

The more melanin people develop in their eyes, the more brown the eye color their eyes would be. In contrast, the less melanin in your eyes, the greener and hazel your eyes would turn out to be. 

The resulting eye color depends on the amount of melanin in your eyes’ iris. The iris absorbs lights of different wavelengths that can reflect various colors too.

When there is more melanin in your eyes, the increased amount of the pigment will absorb more light. This occurrence would give off less scattered or reflected light resulting in brown eyes.

Conversely, when there is less melanin, the light absorbed is less, but the light reflected is more, resulting in a spectrum of lighter colors, like blue or green. Each wavelength reflects a different color. This scattering of light is one reason for the eye color that you visibly see from the outside.

Hazel eyes have a moderate amount of melanin, being the second eye color with the most melanin. The iris’ edges of hazel eyes have more melanin, while the iris’ center displays green, gold, and brown dots. 

Which Parent Determines Eye Color?

hazel eyes

Generally, children inherit their physical features, including eye color, from both their parents. Although 50% of the genes come from each parent, their eye color with the most dominant genes will most likely appear in their kids. 

In contrast, parents with the recessive gene eye color have reduced chances of appearing in their children. Brown is the dominant gene, while blue is the recessive gene. When both of your parents have blue eyes, then, most probably, you will have blue eyes as well. 

When one parent has blue eyes and the other parent has brown eyes, the brown eyes tend to appear more as it is the dominant gene.

Also, genes and the environment contribute to developing children’s features, mental capability, and growth.

A child growing in the north pole may reflect a slightly different eye color than a kid with the same gene eye color growing in a tropical country. This is due to the effect of light scattering. In this case, hazel eyes may appear to change color from light brown to green.

Determining the resulting eye color of a child is more complex, though, as you cannot predict how the multiple genes interact with each other and with the environment around the child. The eye color of a growing child may appear to change significantly throughout the years.

What color are hazel eyes? If you have hazel eyes, then it is light yellow-brown in color, coupled with specks of green, brown, gold, or green at the center. They sometimes appear as green or brown eyes because of this color combination. 

How Can You Tell If You Have Hazel Eyes?

Wear a white shirt and stand behind a white background. Get a mirror and observe your eyes using natural light. Notice the color at the center and edge of your iris. 

If you can see brown color visibly at the border or your iris and specks of gold, green, and brown at the center, then most probably, you have hazel eyes.

If the color is yellow-gold with a small amount of green, your eyes are amber instead of hazel. 

Can Hazel Eyes Change Color? Why Do Hazel Eyes Change Color?

Hazel eyes appear to change color due to Rayleigh scattering and the melanin’s moderate amount in the border layer of the eye’s iris. [3]

Hazel eyes do not truly change colors. But the color of your surrounding environment and your attire would appear to change your eye color. But there are exceptions to the rule.

So eyes can change color due to trauma, age, pregnancy, and puberty. Yet, this occurrence is rare. This is the exception as to eye color changes.

Physiological changes can occur, too, depending on your mood, time of day, and temperature. An example is when you are angry, your pupils tend to enlarge, making them more green or gold or brown. These are temporary, though, as they are only physiological.

You can also change your eye color artificially by using contact lenses of the color you want. You have to see your ophthalmologist first before using contacts as they can damage your eyes and cause infection.

Celebrities with Hazel Eyes

what do hazel eyes look like
Angelina Jolie

Some of the most famous celebrities who have hazel eyes are as follows:

  1. Ben Affleck
  2. Angelina Jolie
  3. Brooke Shields
  4. Demi Moore
  5. Kelly Clarkson
  6. David Beckham
  7. Kristen Stewart
  8. Jason Statham
  9. Jeremy Renner
  10. Jessica Biel
  11. Jada Pinkett-Smith
  12. Jason Bateman
  13. Lady Gaga
  14. Penelope Cruz
  15. Mila Kunis
what color are hazel eyes
Ben Affleck

Are People with Hazel Eyes More Prone to Illnesses?

The American Cancer Society stated that people with light-colored eyes have a somewhat increased risk of developing melanoma, an eye cancer. [4] Experts consider green and hazel eyes as light colors that can fall into this category.

Also, light-colored eyes are more sensitive to light (photophobia) due to the lesser amount of melanin or pigmentation. Darker-colored eyes can block sunlight and reduce the impact of harsh sunlight.

However, light-colored eyes like blue, green, and hazel have reduced the ability to block harsh lights. This property would make the eyes susceptible to harmful rays.

How Can You Protect Your Hazel Eyes? 

what hazel eyes look like

Protecting your eyes needs only common sense and the willingness to follow these simple precautions:

1. Wear UV-Protected Sunglasses 

You can protect your eyes by wearing ultraviolet-blocking sunglasses. The UV protection will prevent the sun’s harmful rays from entering your eyes.

2. Use Wide-Brimmed Hats

Whenever you go out in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat that could cover your face, especially your eyes. The hat could also help protect your facial skin, and it could add elegance to your attire.

3. Use an Umbrella

Umbrellas are not only for rainy days but sunny days as well. If you do not want anything covering your eyes, you can always use an umbrella to go out into the sun.

If you dislike using eye protection, you may want to go out during the early mornings to avoid the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The most harmful sun rays start from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

4. Do Not Overwork Your Eyes

Eye strain can quickly happen if you do not rest your eyes frequently. During reading sessions, rest your eyes at least every 30 minutes to one hour by looking at anything green. The green color will reduce your eye strain and fatigue.

Exercise your eyes by looking up and down and then side to side. You could also roll your eyes around. You can do each of these steps at least ten times.

When reading, avoid low-contrast background colors as well because they could strain your eyes more. Your reading material must not be too low or too high to prevent neck strain too.

5. Stay in the Shaded Areas

Stay in shaded areas when you are outdoors. If you want to acquire a tan, use UV sunglasses to protect your eyes.

In case your eyes are still sensitive despite these precautions, you must see your eye doctor. A complete eye checkup will reveal if you need medication to treat your eyes’ sensitivity. 

6. Use Only Medications Your Doctor Recommends 

The eyes are extra-sensitive, and losing your eyesight because of the wrong medication is fatal. It is better to use water to wash your eyes than risk using over-the-counter drugs that may be toxic and irritating. 

Conclusion – What Color Are Hazel Eyes?

Hazel eyes may appear brown or green because of the moderate amounts of melanin concentrated on the iris’ edges. 

Hazel eyes are actually colored light yellow-brown with smatterings of gold, brown, or green at the eyes’ center. Melanin gives the brown color around the edges of the iris. 

You can know if your eyes are hazel by doing the simple procedure mentioned above. Note that hazel eyes feature a combination of light colors at the center and darker brown colors on the iris’ edges. No other eye color is as fascinating as hazel eyes.