This Is the Rarest Eye Color in the World (2023)

What determines the shade of your peepers? Experts weigh in on the rarest eye color in the world—and the genetics behind it.

It’s said that our eyes are the mirrors of our souls, so it makes sense that eye color is often romanticized. Van Morrison waxed poetic about a brown-eyed girl, while Eric Clapton sang about a woman who “made my blue eyes blue.” Eye color is a distinct part of your features, unique to you. In fact, no two people in the world have the same color eyes. And if you’ve ever wondered what the rarest eye color is, you’re not alone.

Similar to determining the rarest personality type or rarest hair and eye combination, eye color is complicated. While genetics play a role in all of the above, one gene in particular has a large hand in determining eye color. And here’s an interesting fact: When it comes to the rarest eye color in the world (spoiler, it’s not blue eyes), only about 2% of the population have it—the same percentage of redheads worldwide.

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What is the rarest eye color?

Green is the rarest eye color in the world, with only 2% of the world’s population (and fewer than one out of ten Americans) sporting green peepers, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

What is the most common eye color?

When it comes to the most common eye color around the world, brown eyes take the cake. The AAO reports that as many as 79% of people worldwide have some variation of brown eyes, and in the U.S., nearly half (45%) of the population has brown eyes. In fact, it’s an inherited trait that dates back to our early ancestors—about 10,000 years ago, every human on earth had brown eyes, says the AAO.

(Video) The RAREST EYE COLORS In Humans

Not all browns are created equal though. “Eye color is unique to everyone, and no one brown eye looks like another,” says Purnima Patel, MD, an AAO clinical spokesperson and founder of Ophthalmology and Retina Associates of Georgia.

How common are other eye colors?

Blue eyes are the next most popular eye color, but they are a more recent evolutionary occurrence, says Dr. Patel. About 27% of Americans have blue eyes, the AAO reports, which is likely due to immigration from Germany, Scandinavia, England, Ireland and Eastern Europe. And here’s the thing: Everyone with blue eyes actually shares one common ancestor. The first-ever pair of baby blues was a genetic fluke that was passed on—and on and on.

The second-rarest eye color is hazel, a mixture of brown and green with golden flecks. About 18% of Americans have hazel eyes, compared with about 5% of the world’s population. And while violet eyes are a rarity, they’re really just a blue hue, with light bouncing off the surroundings and turning the eyes violet.

What determines eye color?

In short, eye color is determined by melanin, which produces hair, eye and skin pigmentation.

The colored part of your eye, known as the iris, is comprised of two layers: the epithelium in the back, and the stroma in the front. The thin epithelium contains blackish-brown pigments, while the stroma has varying amounts of a pigment called melanin. Eye color is directly related to the amount of melanin found in the stroma. “People with brown eyes have lots of melanin in the iris, while people with blue eyes have much less,” says Yuna Rapoport, MD, a New York City-based ophthalmologist.

Your iris surrounds your pupil and helps control how much light enters your eye. Light bounces off this melanin in different ways and creates the illusion of various hues, Dr. Patel says. Due to variations in melanin, eye color runs the gamut from very light blue to very dark brown. Green irises (the rarest eye color) have less melanin than brown eyes but more than blue eyes, for instance. “Brown is on one end, blue on the other, and hazel and green are in between,” Dr. Patel says. This also means that brown is dominant and blue is the least dominant, also known as recessive.

(Video) 7 Rare Eye Colors People Can Have

Melanin also plays a vital function: protecting your eyes. “Melanin prevents the sun’s damaging rays from getting into our eyes and causing cataracts,” Dr. Patel says. “The more melanin you have in your eyes, the lower your risk is.” This means folks with brown eyes may be less likely to develop cataracts or sun-related damage to their eyes than their blue-eyed counterparts.

Do genetics affect eye color?

Eye color is quite complex and not as simple as two blue-eyed parents having a blue-eyed child, says Rick Sturm, an associate professor and research fellow at the University of Queensland Frazer Institute in Brisbane, Australia. Sturm’s career is focused on unpacking the genetics of human pigmentation, including eye color.

“Multiple genes contribute to eye color, but the main player is OCA2,” he says. In fact, 75% of the genetic contribution to eye color comes from this gene, which provides instructions for making the P protein found in cells that produce the pigment melanin (melanocytes).

Two genes, OCA2 and HERC2, work together to determine melanin content and, thus, eye color. “The OCA2 gene sits next to HERC2, and HERC2 has elements that control the regulation of the OCA2 gene,” says Sturm.

Several common variations in the OCA2 gene reduce the amount of P protein, which is why there is a continuum of eye colors from deep brown to grayish blue.

Do other factors determine eye color?

Yes. Besides genes, the thickness of your iris affects your eye color. “If it is thinner and you don’t have much melanin, your eyes can look gray,” says Sturm.

(Video) Comparison : Rarest Eye Color

Geography matters too, he explains. In Brisbane, Australia, for instance, the breakdown of eye color is 25% brown, 25% green-hazel and 50% blue. But that differs around the world. “Brown eye color is predominant in African and Asian populations, and blue eyes are usually predominant in Europe. But the distribution of brown eyes is higher in southern Europe, and blue eyes are more common in northern Europe.”

Sun exposure may also play a role. Sturm has seen freckling in the eyes “that we know is associated with sun exposure.” But the rarest eye color he’s seen to date is actually polka dots or brown flecks in adolescents. He’s seen it twice, and researchers still don’t know why or how this anomaly occurs, but he doesn’t think it’s due to sun exposure at such a young age.

Can a person have two different colored eyes?

Yes, a genetic mutation that affects the development of melanin in the irises (called heterochromia) can cause different colored eyes. In fact, some actors, including Kate Bosworth and Jane Seymour, are known for having the condition. Additionally, if you sustain damage to the nerves of an eye, you can lose eye color, says Sturm. Plus, glaucoma and certain glaucoma medications have been known to change the color of your eyes.

Can you change your eye color?

There are some contact lenses and procedures that help change the color of your eyes temporarily or permanently, but beware of the consequences, says Rapoport. “The contact lenses are OK, but the material is not the same as what is used for prescription vision correction,” she says. “Using different colored contacts can increase the chances of developing corneal inflammation, ulcers and permanent scarring.”

Placing an implant in front of your iris to change its color is also an option, but this is risky and unproven. “It can cause inflammation, permanent damage or vision loss,” says Dr. Rapoport. Plus, it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Laser corneal tattooing is another way to change your eye color. “This is like a permanent contact that changes the color of your cornea. Another laser procedure involves removing the dark brown pigment to reveal the eyes’ underlying color, whether amber, hazel, gray, green or blue. The bottom line? There is no proven and safe way of changing your eye color just yet, says Dr. Rapoport. Find out why you have a red spot on your eye sometimes.

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(Video) 8 RAREST Eye Colors In Humans!


Is green the rarest eye color in the world with the estimated at 2%? ›

This is why green eyes are so unique. And while 9% is indeed rare, green eyes have an even lower eye color percentage across the globe. Only 2% of the world's population has green eyes, according to the demography resource World Atlas.

What was the real color of Elizabeth Taylor's eyes? ›

Legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor's eyes were famous for being stunningly beautiful and distinct. Widely known for having the most striking eyes in Hollywood, Taylor had what appeared to be rare, natural purple irises.

Is purple eyes real? ›

Unbelievable as it may seem, the answer is yes—natural purple eyes do exist. Purple eyes are also commonly referred to as “violet eyes,” as they are typically a light shade. For most people, this striking eye color can only be achieved with the help of colored contacts.

How rare is red eyes? ›

Only 1% of people have pink and pale red eyes; they are typically albinos. Albinism happens when there is a problem with one of the genes inherited from the mother. Like red eyes, heterochromia is rare and effects less than 1% of the population.

How rare is purple eyes? ›

True purple eyes are exceedingly rare. Less than 1% of the world's population has them, making them rarer than blue, hazel, amber, grey, or green.

Is it true that only 2% of people in the world have green eyes? ›

Green eyes are the most rare eye color in the world. Only about 2 percent of people in the world have naturally green eyes. Green eyes are a genetic mutation that results in low levels of melanin, though more melanin than in blue eyes.

What is the 2 most popular eye color? ›

The vast majority of people in the world have brown eyes. The second most common color is blue, but people can also have green, gray, amber, or red eyes. Some people have eyes that are different colors than each other.

Did Marilyn Monroe have blue eyes? ›

Monroe's natural eye color was most likely to be blue, as recorded in her sister's autobiography (48) – “but our eyes were different … Norma Jeane's were blue like our mother's” – and on her autopsy report (49), in addition to Capote's description of her “blue-grey eyes” while wearing glasses (46).

Who has natural purple eyes? ›

Violet Eyes

This color is most often found in people with albinism. It is said that you cannot truly have violet eyes without albinism. Mix a lack of pigment with the red from light reflecting off of blood vessels in the eyes, and you get this beautiful violet!

Can two brown-eyed people have a blue-eyed child? ›

Likewise, two brown-eyed parents can have a child with blue eyes, although this is also uncommon.

Do yellow eyes exist? ›

Amber eyes are extremely rare. Most sources say that only about 5% of people have true amber eyes. Coming up with a hard and fast number or percentage, though, is not as easy as you might think—there simply haven't been enough large-scale studies done to quantify eye color prevalence with certainty.

What is the prettiest eye color? ›

We found that green is the most popular lens colour, with brown coming in a close second, despite it being one of the most common eye colours. Although blue and hazel are seen as the most attractive eye colours for men and women they are surprisingly the least popular.

Are Rainbow eyes real? ›

Perhaps the rarest eye color is not one color at all, but multicolored eyes. This condition is called heterochromia iridis. A person can be born with this condition, it can develop in infancy, or it can develop as a symptom of a systemic disease or after an injury to the eye.

What is the rarest skin color? ›

The rarest skin color in the world is believed to be the white from albinism, a genetic mutation that causes a lack of melanin production in the human body. Albinism affects 1 in every 3,000 to 20,000 people.

What was the first eye color? ›

About 10,000 years ago, everyone in the world had brown eyes. Scientists believe that the first blue-eyed person had a genetic mutation that caused the body to produce less melanin. Today, about half of the people in the United States have brown eyes. Eye colors range from very light blue to dark brown.

What is the rarest hair eye combo? ›

The rarest hair and eye color combination is red hair with blue eyes, occurring in less than 1% of the global population.

How rare is pink eyes? ›

How common is pink eye? Pink eye is one of the most common eye infections in children and adults. There are about 6 million cases of pink eye in the U.S. each year.

What is the 2 rarest eye color? ›

The second-rarest eye color is hazel, a mixture of brown and green with golden flecks. About 18% of Americans have hazel eyes, compared with about 5% of the world's population.

How rare are silver eyes? ›

Silver (grey) eyes: A grey-silver colour is quite rare and occurs as a result of virtually no melanin in the iris. Silver eyes are considered to be one of the rarest colours around the world, but when they do occur, this is most often seen in eastern Europe areas.

Can eyes change color? ›

Changes in eye color are rare. Sometimes, the color of your eye may appear to change when your pupils dilate. The colors in your environment, including lighting and your clothes, can give the illusion of eye color change.

Does eye color affect vision? ›

Eye color doesn't significantly affect the sharpness of your vision, but it can affect visual comfort in certain situations. It all comes down to the density of the pigment melanin within your iris, which determines what colors of light are absorbed or reflected.

Can brown eyes turn hazel? ›

People who had deep brown eyes during their youth and adulthood may experience a lightening of their eye pigment as they enter middle age, giving them hazel eyes.

What causes eye color to change? ›

Natural Age-Related Eye Color Changes

As they are exposed to light, melanin production increases, causing the color of their eyes to shift. However, eye color changes can also occur as a person ages. Those with lighter color eyes – especially Caucasians – may see their eyes lighten over time.

How rare is it for a black person to have blue eyes? ›

African-Americans with blue eyes are not unheard of, but they are pretty rare. There are lots of ways for this to happen. Some possible ways an African-American person might have ended up with blue eyes are: Caucasian relatives in their ancestry (the most likely reason)

Do all babies have blue eyes? ›

Melanin determines several aspects of our appearance. And while we have the least amount when we enter the world for the first time, remember that babies may be born with eyes of blue, brown, hazel, green, or some other color. It's simply a myth that all of us — or most of us, for that matter — are blue-eyed at birth.

Can Asians have blue eyes? ›

So while many Asians do have the “blue-eyed allele”, blue eyes themselves are still quite rare.

Will my kid have blue eyes? ›

If you and your partner both have blue eyes, your baby is highly likely to have blue eyes. If you and your partner both have brown eyes, your baby is highly likely to have brown eyes. If one of your baby's grandparents has blue eyes, your baby's chances of having blue eyes is higher.

What all presidents had blue eyes? ›

Eye color might be one of the few commonalities between Republican and Democratic presidents, as blue eyes dominated both parties. Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are blue eyed, as were George H. W. Bush, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Ford.

Do eyes lighten with age? ›

In most people, the answer is no. Eye color fully matures in infancy and remains the same for life. But in a small percentage of adults, eye color can naturally become either noticeably darker or lighter with age. What determines eye color is the pigment melanin.

Why was Marilyn Monroe's face purple? ›

This condition is called lividity, and considering that many people die lying on their backs, the discoloration that occurs is seldom visible. "In Marilyn's case, she died face down, so there were purple blotches on her face, and her neck was very swollen.

Did Elizabeth Taylor have violet eyes? ›

Legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor's eyes were famous for being stunningly beautiful and distinct. Widely known for having the most striking eyes in Hollywood, Taylor had what appeared to be rare natural purple eyes.

What color are Angelina Jolie's eyes? ›

Angelina Jolie

Angelina, apart from her award-winning roles, humanitarian efforts and plump lips, is known for her gorgeous blue eyes which are considered one of the sexiest in the world.

Which parent determines eye color? ›

Your children inherit their eye colors from you and your partner. It's a combination of mom and dad's eye colors – generally, the color is determined by this mix and whether the genes are dominant or recessive. Every child carries two copies of every gene – one comes from mom, and the other comes from dad.

What genes are inherited from father only? ›

All men inherit a Y chromosome from their father, which means all traits that are only found on the Y chromosome come from dad, not mom. The Supporting Evidence: Y-linked traits follow a clear paternal lineage.

How do kids get blue eyes? ›

The laws of genetics state that eye color is inherited as follows: If both parents have blue eyes, the children will have blue eyes. The brown eye form of the eye color gene (or allele) is dominant, whereas the blue eye allele is recessive.

Can blue eyes skip a generation? ›

The child inherited two blue genes; although neither parent had blue eyes, it was still part of their DNA. Blue eyes can skip a generation. In other words, this child's grandparents' eyes were probably blue.

What are the 3 rarest eye colors? ›

Green is considered by some to be the actual rarest eye color in the world, though others would say it's been dethroned by red, violet, and grey eyes.

Are grey eyes rare? ›

Close to 3% of the world's population have gray eyes. People with gray eyes have little or no melanin in their irises, but they have more collagen in a part of the eye called the stroma. The light scatters off the collagen in a way that makes the eyes appear gray.


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