While there is a limitless number of hues, shades, richness, and combination of colors, most people agree about how many eye colors there are in general. And that number is six: brown, hazel, blue, green, gray, and amber.
The Basic 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 are by far the most common. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Only 3 percent of the world’s population has gray eyes, which understandably may be confused with blue eyes.
Although it may not appear to be so, green eyes are the least common. Green eyes have more melanin than blue eyes, but only 2 percent of the people in the world have green 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 heterochromia 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.
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