What Is the Most Common Eye Color in the World?

Eye with rainbow iris

Eye color is a common characteristic we use to categorize people. Like hair color, there are only a few natural eye colors in the world, but some are much more common than others.

So, let’s take a look at what the most common eye color is, along with how common other colors are in comparison. No matter the results, all eye colors are beautiful whether they’re common or rare.

What Determines Eye Color?

Close-up collage of different eye colors

The iris of your eye is the colored part. It surrounds the pupil with a color such are brown, blue, or hazel. Each eye color is determined by how much melanin is present in the front layers of the iris. People with darker-colored eyes, such as brown, have a lot more melanin in their irises than people with light-colored eyes, such as blue.

There are two types of melanin in irises: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin produces darker colors while pheomelanin produces lighter colors. So, the amount of overall melanin and individual types of melanin can lead to the color of a person’s eyes. The amount of melanin in each person’s eye is unique to them. So, like fingerprints, no two people’s eye colors are exactly the same.

Do Genes Affect Eye Color?

Genes also matter when it comes to eye color. The biological parents of a child pass several genes to the child to determine their eye color. Some genes are dominant and others are recessive. Dark colors have dominant genes while light colors have recessive genes. So, if one parent has brown eyes, the genes that cause brown eyes will likely dominate genes that cause other colored eyes.

At first, scientists believed that each parent passed down a single eye color gene to their children. So, they assumed two blue-eyed people couldn’t produce a brown-eyed baby. Yet, after more research, people have discovered that genes are a lot more complicated than that. Up to 16 genes can determine a baby’s eye color, so not all children will have a similar eye color to their parents. Yet, in most instances, kids have similar traits to their parents.

Does Location Influence Eye Color?

There’s a chance that your location and the origin of your relatives may influence your eye color. Darker eye colors, such as brown, seem to be more common in areas with warm, sunny climates. While it could be a coincidence, it makes sense considering that brown eyes are less sensitive to the sun.

On the other hand, lighter colors are common in northern locations where there’s less sunlight. That could be because colors like blue and green are more sensitive to bright lighting. Again, this aspect of eye color is not studied enough to make a conclusion. It seems that genes and the amount of melanin are most important in determining someone’s eye color.

What Is the Most Common Eye Color?

Two women with different eye colors

Brown is the most common eye color. Over half the population has brown eyes, likely because brown eyes carry dominant genes. Brown eyes are also more common for people living in warm climates because the extra melanin in brown eyes provides more protection from the sun.

About 10,000 years ago, everyone had brown eyes. Then, a genetic mutation occurred to cause other eye colors to emerge. Over the years, eye color has become more diverse, but brown is still by far the majority since it was the first eye color to exist for humans.

What Is the Rarest Eye Color?

There’s some discrepancy about the rarest eye color in the world. Many people believe it’s green or gray, but there are some colors so rare that people don’t even consider them natural eye colors.

Red or violet is likely the rarest eye color. These unusual colors only occur due to rare conditions like albinism. People with albinism have fewer pigments in their bodies, causing the blood vessels in their eyes to make their irises look red or violet. These rare colors are the most sensitive to the sun, so people who have them need to be extra careful.

However, even though many people associate albinism with red eyes, it’s actually not common. Lighting conditions make the eyes look red or violet at times, but people with albinism have blue or hazel eyes for the most part.

How Common Is Each Eye Color?

Now that we know what the most and least common colors are, let’s look at the statistics of each eye color. Here are the ones we’ll be discussing:

  • Brown eyes
  • Blue eyes
  • Hazel eyes
  • Amber eyes
  • Green eyes
  • Gray eyes
  • Different-colored eyes

As mentioned earlier, there are other colors eyes can appear as, such as red or violet, but those hues are so rare that there aren’t many statistics for how often they occur.

Brown Eyes

Dark brown eyes

Between 55% and 79% of the world’s population has brown eyes, which is why it’s the most common. This includes both light brown and dark brown. Some brown eyes are so dark that they almost look black, but most people still consider them brown as opposed to a separate eye color.

Even when looking at individual areas of the world, brown is still the most common. For example, almost everyone born in Africa, South Asia, and East Asia has brown eyes. In areas where brown is prevalent, it will likely keep getting passed down to new generations at a faster rate than other colors.

Blue Eyes

Blue eyes

Even though blue is likely the second most common eye color in the world, it’s still uncommon. Only about 8% to 10% of people in the world have blue eyes. Many people adore blue eyes, but this color is more sensitive to light than brown eyes.

It’s believed that everyone with blue eyes today can be traced back to a person with a genetic mutation that existed 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. A gene mutation caused the person to have lower levels of melanin, which passed down to more people over time.

There are a few areas in the world where blue eyes are the most common, including Iceland and the Netherlands.

Hazel Eyes

Close-up of hazel eye

Hazel is described as a combination of brown and green. These eyes may also have flecks of other colors in them, such as gold. Hazel eyes don’t always look the same because they seem to change color in different types of lighting.

About 5% of people in the world have hazel eyes. Hazel eyes are more common for people of European origin.

Amber Eyes

Amber eye close-up

Like hazel, about 5% of the world’s population has amber eyes. Amber eyes look like light brown eyes with an orange, copper, or gold tint, and they differ from brown eyes because they have a lot less melanin.

Green Eyes

Green eyes

Green eyes have a beautiful hue, and they’re one of the rarest eye colors in the world. Only about 2% of all people have green eyes. People who have Celtic or German ancestors are more likely to have green eyes. Green eyes have very low melanin, but not quite as low as blue eyes.

Gray Eyes

Gray eyes

Some people describe gray eyes as very pale blue eyes, but they have a unique appearance. Gray is one of the few hues that have less melanin than blue eyes, making them very sensitive to light. Gray irises have little to no melanin, but when light scatters across the eye, it makes it look gray.

Less than 1% of the population has gray eyes. This color is most common in northern and eastern areas of Europe. Since the color has so little melanin, it often appears as different colors, like blue or purple, in different types of lighting.

Different-Colored Eyes

Different-colored eyes

Heterochromia isn’t one eye color, but instead, it’s two in one. The term describes individuals who have two different colored eyes. In some cases, one eye might have two colors in it. Like gray eyes, less than 1% of the human population has heterochromia. Heterochromia tends to be more common in dogs than in humans.

This condition is usually hereditary, but it could also occur if there’s a problem with eye development or if a medical condition occurs. However, even if a person has had two different colored eyes since birth, it’s rare that their children will also end up with that condition.

Can Eye Colors Change?

Putting in colored contact lens

Eye colors can change, but only slightly, and it’s most common in babies. A baby’s eyes may look light at birth, but they can darken slightly as the child ages because the body produces more melanin. A person’s eye color is usually determined by one year old, but eye colors may appear different in various lighting.

While it’s unlikely for eye colors to change naturally, there are a few aspects that can influence the iris’s appearance, such as the following.

Colored Contacts

If you want to change your eye color, the easiest way to do so is to get colored contacts. Contacts in almost any color are available whether you need a prescription or just want decorative contacts. Blue is one of the most popular eye colors people choose when buying contacts.

However, you always need to see an eye doctor before getting new contacts, even if they’re just for looks. That’s because the eye doctor needs to do a proper fitting and exam before giving you the contacts. If you try to get contacts without the help of a doctor, they’ll be more likely to scratch or irritate your eye, potentially leading to eye infections.

Surgical Procedures

It’s possible to undergo surgical procedures to change eye color, but it’s not recommended unless there’s also a medical reason for it. For example, an iris implant can permanently change someone’s eye color, but it’s more commonly used for treating eye injuries. Undergoing the surgery for aesthetic reasons only can be dangerous.

Medication Side Effects

Side effects from some medications may also alter your eye color. Medications that treat glaucoma and an eyelash lengthener called Latisse have been reported to affect eye colors in rare instances. They may darken the shade of an eye color in addition to their intended effects.

All Eye Colors Are Beautiful!

Variety of eye colors

You don’t get to choose your eye color. Iris colors are determined by genes and the amount of melanin present. So, it’s likely that people will end up with the most common eye color, which is brown, but there’s always a chance that someone could get a rarer eye color like blue, hazel, amber, or even green.

No matter what eye color you have, be proud of it. All colors are beautiful in their own ways, no matter how common or rare they are. If you really want to change your eye color, you can consider colored contacts, but they won’t change your eye color permanently. So, try to embrace the beauty of your eye color because it’s one of the many things that makes you special.

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