How Many Eye Colors are There? A Michigan Eye Doctor Explains

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Eye Color Guide

While there is a limitless number of hues, shades, richness, and combinations of colors that make up your eye color, most people agree about how many eye colors there are in general. And that number is six: brown, hazel, blue, green, gray, and amber. 

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The Most Common Eye Colors

Generally, eye color depends on how much of the pigment melanin is in the iris, the colored part of the eyes. A small number of people may notice their eye color changing with age. The more pigment, the darker the eyes.  The only pigment is brown; the color of the eyes is determined by the level of pigmentation in the eyes. Research shows that up to 16 genes may influence eye color.

There is no such thing as black irises. Eyes that appear to be black are simply very dark brown. 

brown eyes Brown Eyes

Brown eyes are by far the most common eye color. In fact, approximately 80 percent of the world’s population has brown eyes. Because they are deeply pigmented, brown eyes are more protected from the sun than other colored eyes. 

blue eyes Blue Eyes 

There’s a saying out there that all people with blue eyes are related. Legend has it that at one time, everyone had brown eyes, but a genetic mutation in a single individual 10,000 years ago led to blue eyes. Whether that’s true or not, we do not know for sure. What we do know is that about 10 percent of the world’s population has blue eyes today. 

Hazel eye color Hazel Eyes 

The word “hazel” doesn’t really describe a color as much as a combination of colors. Hazel eyes have hints of green, blue, gold, and brown. About 5 percent of the population has hazel eyes. 

amber eye color Amber Eyes

The number of people who have true amber eyes is unclear, but it is definitely one of the rarest colors. Unlike hazel eyes, amber eyes do not contain hints of other colors. 

gray eye color Gray Eyes

Only 3 percent of the world’s population has gray eyes, which understandably may be confused with blue eyes. It is believed that people with gray eyes have even less melanin in their eyes than people with blue eyes.

green eye color Green Eyes

Although it may not appear to be so, green eyes are the least common eye color. Green eyes have more melanin than blue eyes, but only 2 percent of the people in the world have green eyes. 

Eye Color Percentages

Different eye colors and how common each one is by percentage of the population.

Different eye colors and how common each one is by percentage of the population.

Heterochromatic Eyes 

While the above is a general idea of how many eye colors there are, truly no two pairs of eyes are alike, which is part of what makes each human wonderfully unique. In some cases, combinations of various colors may make identifying the eye color impossible, and some eyes that appear hazel may look blue depending on the season or clothing. 

Perhaps most fascinating are heterochromatic eyes, where one person has different-colored eyes. Other than their appearance, heterochromatic eyes are no different than any other eyes.  

However, people with such eyes tend to get a lot of attention. Celebrities known for their heterochromatic eyes include: 

  • Dominic Sherwood, whose left eye is half blue and half brown. 
  • Kate Bosworth, who has one eye that is half blue and half hazel. 
  • Jane Seymour, who has a brown left eye and green right eye. 
  • Max Scherzer, whose eyes are stunningly different, with one dark brown and the other light blue/gray. 

Colored Eye Contacts

Ever wondered what you would look like with a different eye color? With modern contact lenses, people can change their eye color by just popping in contacts. Colored contacts can range from common natural eye colors to colors such as purple or red. Ask your eye doctor about getting prescription colored contact lenses.

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