Hazel Eyes – A Definitive Resource That You Need to Know

Do you have hazel eyes? You’re one lucky person. Hazel eyes are not just rare; they’re quite stunning and mysterious.

Many people can’t even find the words to define them. Some call them hazelnuts while others say they’re brownish green or golden green and brown. But what exactly are they? We’ll get to that in a bit.

Still, other people think they’re associated with an illness. Is that true? We’ll delve into that also.

This article is your comprehensive guide about hazel eyes. We’ll define them, talk about how they develop and compare them with other eye colors like green, red, and brown.

Moreover, we’ll give you make-up tips to help you pop your hazel eyes and make them even more striking like those of Tyra Banks or Kelly Clarkson.

What Are Hazel Eyes?

Hazel eyes refer to a unique, mysterious, and beautiful pattern of colors in the eye. Many people find it hard to describe what exactly hazel eyes are because unlike other eye colors, the hazel hue seems to change depending on factors like the lighting conditions and what you’re wearing.

Some folks say hazel eyes look like hazelnuts, while others claim they appear brownish green and sometimes golden.

But the simplest definition would be – a mix of several colors, particularly brown, green, and gold, that appears different each time.

Note that hazel eyes are not really about the colors but rather about the patterns in the eyes. Even though they appear to have pigments like amber and green, these pigments are non-existent in the eye.

So, rather than being caused by colors, the phenomenon results from the patterns of the available colors and the available light. The patterns line up in such a way that if you have hazel eyes, you have a mix of what appears to be a mix of yellow, brown and green hues in the iris.

One interesting fact is that no two people with natural hazel eyes have them looking exactly the same. Why? Because of the hues are mixed to varying degrees.

Another thing to note about hazel eyes is that unlike other eye colors, they’re polychromatic, meaning they contain many hues. For instance, if someone has blue eyes, they have just that eye color. The same case applies to green eyes or brown eyes – it’s referred to as “monochromatic”.

The hazel eyes pattern

The pattern starts with a color ring around the pupil, which is normally brownish. Moving outward away from the pupil, the hue shifts to green, at times with an amber ring to separate it from the brown ring.

As you can see, it’s a form of burst-like design. That’s what distinguishes hazel eyes from monochromatic eye colors like green or blue.

We will delve deeper into the topic about the differences between hazel eyes and other eye colors a little later. For now, let’s see the determinants of eye color as well as the causes hazel eyes.

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What Determines the Color of Your Eyes?

To help you understand what contributes to the development of hazel eyes, we’ll explain to you what determines the color of your eyes.

As you might already know, eye colors vary a lot. Some people have light brown eyes, others gray, others green, blue, hazel, and so on. The interesting thing is that in spite of what color variations we see, there are actually just two pigments in human eyes – red and dark brown.

Now, in your eyes, these two pigments have a specific pattern in the iris, the circular part that surrounds the dark spot at the center called the pupil. It is that pattern, along with the arrangement of the collagen fibers in the iris, that determines what color is displayed.

Melanin determines your eye color

We’ve talked about the pigments determining eye color, but we’ve not said where they come from. Well, in your eyes, there are cells called melanocytes. These are the ones that produce the color pigment called melanin.

Melanin determines the color of your skin, hair, and eyes.

There are two forms of melanin in your eyes - pheomelanin, which is red, and eumelanin, which is dark-brown.

  • If you have dark eyes (the iris part, of course), that means you have a lot of eumelanin, the dark-brown pigment.
  • If you have blue eyes, that means you have very little pigment as compared to those with dark eyes.

Most Africans have brown eyes, due to the presence of high levels of melanin in their eyes, while most Europeans (except Hispanics) have blueish eyes due to low levels of the pigment.

How is it that Europeans have blue eyes yet there’s no blue pigment in the eyes?

Once again, it all boils down to the arrangement of the connective tissues in the iris. The tissue scatters the light in a way that leaves the iris looking blue.

That leaves you asking – how then do green, gray, and hazel eyes develop?

Well, if your eye color is neither brown nor blue, that means you fall in the middle. You have the pigment in varying levels and there might even be areas in your iris that lack pigment.

The general arrangement of your iris’s collagen fibers and the levels of pigment in there will determine the pigment people see when they look at your eyes.

Ever heard of the term Rayleigh scattering?

It means the sprinkling of light by the arrangement of particles and fibers in your iris, resulting in the display of certain colors.

Depending on the amount of pigment you have, and the Rayleigh scattering, you might display varying colors in the iris.

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Rayleigh scattering as a determinant of eye color 

So, as you’ve learnt, there are no other pigments in the eye except dark-brown and red. Except the amounts of pigment in your iris, the other determinant of eye color is the light coming though the eyes. There are 2 ways in which that is achieved:

  • The melanin in your eyes absorbs the light in varying wavelengths.
  • The light gets scattered (Rayleigh scattering) and reflected in the eye differently

The higher the amounts of melanin in your eyes, the more the amount of light absorbed.

  • Having a high concentration of melanin means more light comes in, and that subsequently reduces the extent of scattering or reflection of light from the iris. That’s why your eyes look brown or dark-brown.
  • But if your melanin levels are low, the amount of light getting in is also low. That also means the light scattering and reflection happens to a greater extent.

Remember the light rays with short wavelengths?

Green and blue – as their wavelengths are shorter than other colors, they get scattered more readily, leading to appearance of these colors.

Blue happens to have an even shorter wavelength, so if you have even lower amounts of melanin end up displaying blue eyes.

Wondering why you see different colors in different areas of the iris in hazel eyes?

That’s because of differences in the distribution of the color pigment (melanin). And in turn, causing the color absorption, scattering, and reflection to differ. For instance, the part near the pupil might appear light brown, and the one near the outer edge of the iris might appear green.

That brings us to another important question – what determines the arrangement of the fibers and ultimately color patterns in our eyes?

And the answer is easy – the genes.

Let’s see how that is achieved in a way you can understand.

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Genes as The Determinant of Your Eye Color

In the past, scientists believed that people inherited eye color from their parents, with the pairs being brown (dominant) and blue (recessive). They believed that it wasn’t possible for both parents to have blue eyes and then get a kid with brown eyes. Or for two parents with brown eyes to have kids with blue eyes.

But today, the story is different. It has already been shown that not one gene but rather up to 15.

Thus, while you certainly inherited your eye color trait from your parents, the color you display depends on the action of many genes.

And that’s what makes predicting the eye color based on the parents’ eye colors is difficult.

As far as the genetics of eye color is concerned, the studies are still in the infant stage. Only a handful of genes are under investigation, yet thousands of genes are involved in the development of the iris, the part that we refer to when talking about eye color.

How eye color changes in childhood

Most whites, except those of Hispanic descent, have their eye color being blue upon birth. However, the color changes to green, brown, or a hazel pattern in their childhood.

This occurrence isn’t really about genes, so what is it about?

The reason why these babies are born with blue eyes in the first place is that they’re born with low levels of melanin in the iris. But, within a few years, the melanocytes in their irises produce more melanin, causing their eyes to change color to brown, green or even hazel.

Of course, those who get brown eyes are those that produce melanin in higher levels. Production of melanin in lower levels result in green or hazel eyes.

As for Asians, Africans, and Hispanics, these are mostly born with dark eyes, which remain dark or dark-brown throughout life.

Health Issues Associated to Hazel Eyes 

Generally, if you have hazel eyes, that is a beautiful and unique thing. It’s not an illness but rather a form of beauty.

That being said, you might want to avoid exposing your eyes too much to direct sunlight. Keep in mind that you have moderate to low amounts of melanin, which is meant to protect human skin and eyes from the harmful UV rays.

Ruth Williams, MD, glaucoma expert at the Wheaton Eye Clinic, advises folks with light-colored and hazel eyes to wear UV-protected sunglasses.

Around 6 of every 1 million US adults suffer from Uveal Melanoma, an intraocular cancer. Of that, the prevalence among black-Americans is less than 1/8th that of the white-Americans. Keeping in mind black people have more melanin in the eye than white people, it’s observed that having light-colored and hazel eyes puts you in the risk of uveal Melanoma.

Even though the risk is slight, it is still diligent to wear sunglasses to protect yourself from UV rays, which have been shown to damage genetic material, thereby causing cancer.

Are hazel eyes a sign of disease?

Not at all. They’re a natural feature. However, since you don’t have much melanin in your eyes, you want to protect them from the UV rays, which can cause cancer. Try wearing sunglasses when spending lots of time in the sun.

Hazel Eyes Color: Hazel Eyes vs. Other Eye Colors  

How do hazel eyes differ from the other eye colors? Let us see the variations based on the following factors:


The most obvious difference is the color. While hazel eyes are polychromatic, other eye colors are largely mono-chromatic. For instance, brown is just brown and blue is just blue.

By the way, monochromatic means being made of one color, while polychromatic means being made of different colors.

So, with hazel eyes, you see different colors in the same eye, like brown, green, and gold.


According to the World Atlas, hazel is one of the rare forms of eye color in the world.

The commonest eye color is brown, with its occurrence standing at around 79%. The next in line is blue, which occurs at a rate of 8 to 10%. After that, the next one is hazel, with around 5% of the population having it. Green is less common, with a prevalence of 2%. Even rarer are eye colors like red/violet and gray, which occur at less than 1%.

How they come about

Another difference that hazel eyes have with the other eye colors is the way in which they come about. Hazel eyes are a result of low concentrations of melanin in the iris, couple up with the light scattering phenomenon we talked about earlier called Rayleigh scattering.

The difference with brown eyes is that with brown eyes, there is a high concentration of iris throughout the iris, and the concentration is uniform.

Although other monochromatic eye colors like green or blue signify a low concentration of melanin, the concentration is uniform.

But with hazel eyes, the concentration is low, and it differs as you move away from the pupil. At the edge that is near the pupil, the concentration is normally high and as you move outward, it reduces. That is why most folks with hazel eyes have a brown color near the pupil and greenish or gold colors as you move outward.

Protection from UV rays

The pigment called melanin is what protects the eyes from the harmful UV rays.

So, compared to brown eyes, which have high levels of melanin, hazel eyes are less protected from UV rays, hence the need for sunglasses.

The difference here is majorly from brown eyes, since the other eye colors including blue and green are also not well protected from the UV rays.

Hazel Eyes Percentage – how common are hazel eyes? 

According to statistics on the World Atlas, brown is the most common eye color, with its prevalence standing at about 79%.

What about hazel and the other eye colors? You ask. Well, the rest occur as follow:

  • 5% of the people have hazel or amber-colored eyes.
  • 8 to 10% have blue eyes.
  • 2% of the people have green eyes.
  • Even rarer are gray, and red/violet eyes, which occur at a rate of less than 1%.

As earlier shown, most of the people with brown eyes are blacks, Asians, and Hispanic whites, as they have the highest melanin levels. The other eye colors prevail mostly among the non-hispanic whites, who have lower levels of melanin.

Note that apart from hazel, there’s another rare eye color phenomenon known as heterochromia. That is where your eyes are colored differently, so that, for instance, your left eye is green while the right one is blue.

Heterochromia is one of the rarest eye color phenomena, occurring at a rate of less than 1%.

What Should You Take Care of When You Have Hazel Eyes? 

Remember what we said about the health issues associated with hazel eyes? We stated that hazel eyes aren’t a disease or medical condition. They’re natural beauty.

But we also illustrated how hazel eyes put you at the risk (albeit slight) of getting uveal melanoma, which is a form of cancer that affects the eyes.

If you have hazel eyes (or other eye colors apart from brown or dark-brown for that matter), that means your melanin levels are moderate to low. Hence, you don’t have much protection from the harmful UV rays.

Considering UV rays are associated with the development of uveal melanoma, it’s crucial to wear UV-protected sunglasses any time you’re out in the sun.

Tips on Make Up for Hazel Eyes

If you have hazel eyes, you’re very lucky, friend. That blend of green, gold and brown looks truly magnificent, and you probably get lots of praises.

But having a generally awesome look when you have hazel eyes also depends on your make up. By applying makeup correctly, you could amplify that beauty and bring out those eye colors really nice.

In this section, we’ll show you how to go about it.

We’ll divide it into two parts. The first part will be about accenting/boosting the green, then the second part will be about boosting the brown color in your hazel eyes.

Part 1: Boosting the Green in The Hazel Eyes

Green eyeshadow

To highlight the green, use a green eyeshadow. Get a green palette and test out the different hues to see which ones work best for you.

Keep in mind that warmer tones of green are better than their cooler counterparts. For instance, golden green works better than sea green.

Trick: blend green with brown to make an earthy green, which also usually looks great. That could be a lifesaver if you’re having trouble finding the right hue.

Apply it in layers

If you are applying a single color, this step is obviously unnecessary. But if you’re dealing with many colors, then do so in layers to define the eyes more. Do it this way:

  • Start with a medium green tone, applying it all over the eyelid.
  • Next, apply the darkest green on your palette reaching into the crease.
  • Now, apply the 2nd lightest green over the crease, blending it into the dark green.
  • Time to put on the lightest tone on the brow to accent it.
  • Finish by blending the colors and cleaning up any errors.
Define the green with a black eyeliner

If you apply a brown eyeliner, that will not go well with the eyeshadow, which is green. So, go for black. Again, stay away from cool tones, as they will not blend well with the color of your eyes. Go for something warmer, like matte black.

To make your eyes appear brighter, line your eyes’ inner corners with a gold eyeliner.

Define your eyelashes

Applying mascara will lengthen and define the eyelashes, which, in turn, will bring out those hazel colors beautifully.

To highlight the green in your eyes, black mascara will work wonderfully. You could apply false lashes that are curled or just curl up yours then apply the mascara for an even more spectacular look.

A make-up artist friend of ours told us that if you finish with a highlighter, giving attention to your cheeks, above the brows, and your eyes’ corners, you will accentuate your hazel eyes even more.

Part 2: Boosting the Brown in The Hazel Eyes

Brown eyeshadow

One of the best ways to bring out that brown in your eyes is to use earthy colors like brown. By using a brown eyeshadow, you get the brown in your eyes looking deep.

You also want to think about what you’re wearing. During the day, wear milky-chocolate or sandy clad and during the night, try a gold tone to accent your eyes.

Multiple colors in layers

You don’t need this step if you’re applying just one color. However, if you’re applying many colors, do it in layers this way:

  • Start by applying a medium-tone color like light-brown, blending properly up to the eye’s crease.
  • Apply the darkest tone in the eyelid crease.
  • Blend the 2nd lightest tone like light-sandy into the dark tone of the eyelid.
  • Apply the lightest tone on your to the bony prominence above your eye (called brow bone).
  • Finish by blending the layers and cleaning up any errors.
Restrain the green with a brown eyeliner

If you want to make your eyes appear darker, then try restraining the green. To do that, utilize a brown eyeliner.

During the night, however, you want to use a black eyeliner as that will bring out a bolder look.

For brighter eyes, try lining the inner corners with a gold eyeliner.

Define your eyelashes

Dark-brown is the best tone as it best portrays brown and gold colors in the iris. For a bold look, combine dark-brown mascara with black eyeliner.

Finish by bronzing

A great way to make your skin look healthy and radiant is to apply a bronzer. You want to do bronzing on your brow, cheeks, and nose. This finish with accent the warmth and golden glow coming from your eyes.

Up to this point, we have focused on tips that bring out the brown/gold colors in hazel eyes while suppressing the green.

Now, we’re going to do the opposite. The following tips are for accenting the green in your hazel eyes.

Final Word

If you have hazel eyes or know someone who does, you now understand what they’re about. Hazel eyes are not a medical condition. They’re a striking natural phenomenon that is rare and awesomely beautiful.

The only thing to keep in mind is that since your melanin levels are not high, you got to wear UV-protected sunglasses when staying in the sun for extended durations.

Anything else you’d like to add about hazel eyes? Feel free to do so in the comments.

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