Skip to main content

Edmund is a biostatistician with over 10 years of experience in clinical research. He loves to study human-inherited traits.

This is one of those questions that seems like it should have an easy answer when it really doesn’t. In fact, there is some debate over what the rarest eye color actually is. This is partly because "rare” itself can be a relative term, since one eye color might be very rare in a certain part of the world and extremely common in another.

Though hard scientific evidence is hard to come by, we can say with certainty what some of the less common colors are.

What Is the Rarest Eye Color?

Eye colors from most rare to most common:
• Green, Amber and Violet/Red (these three are extremely rare)
• Black (no eyes are true black, just very dark brown)
• Blue
• Gray
• Hazel
• Brown
 
Green eyes are uncommon in most parts of the world
Green eyes are uncommon in most parts of the world

Green Eyes

Though the scientific research is lacking, it is very likely that green is one of the most rare eye colors worldwide. It's commonly quoted that only 2% of the world’s population has green eyes, though it’s difficult to determine where that number came from.

Even if the number is accurate, 2% of the world's 7.3 billion people is 146 million. This is roughly the population of Russia. That's not to say that green eyes aren't special, because they are! It just depends on where you happen to be. In most parts of the world, almost everyone has brown hair and eyes, with green being very rare or absent altogether.

Green eyes are sometimes confused with hazel eyes, which have both brown and green in them. To tell the difference, go into natural lighting (outside during the day), and look at your eyes compared with someone you know to have green, hazel, or brown eyes. The difference should be clear between them.

Where Do Green Eyes Originate From?

Green eyes are most common in Northern and Central Europe though they can also be found in Southern Europe as well as Western Asia. As was mentioned earlier, brown hair and eyes are dominant in most regions, though there are several countries where it is actually more common to have green or blue eyes than brown eyes.

For example, in Ireland and Scotland, 86% of the population has either blue or green eyes, and in Iceland, 89% of women and 87% of men have blue or green eyes. Among European Americans, green eyes are most common in people of recent Celtic or Germanic ancestry. Green eyes also tend to be more common in women.

Even though they're most common in Northern and Central Europe, people of any race can have green eyes.

Celebrities with Green Eyes

  • Adele
  • Emma Stone
  • Amanda Seyfried
  • Clive Owen
  • Jon Hamm
  • Eddie Redmayne
  • Kate Middleton
  • Gael Garcia Bernal
 
 

What Is the Rarest Eye Color?

Eye colors from most rare to most common:
• Green, Amber and Violet/Red (these three are extremely rare)
• Black (no eyes are true black, just very dark brown)
• Blue
• Gray
• Hazel
• Brown
 
Green eyes are uncommon in most parts of the world
Green eyes are uncommon in most parts of the world

Green Eyes

Though the scientific research is lacking, it is very likely that green is one of the most rare eye colors worldwide. It's commonly quoted that only 2% of the world’s population has green eyes, though it’s difficult to determine where that number came from.

Even if the number is accurate, 2% of the world's 7.3 billion people is 146 million. This is roughly the population of Russia. That's not to say that green eyes aren't special, because they are! It just depends on where you happen to be. In most parts of the world, almost everyone has brown hair and eyes, with green being very rare or absent altogether.

Green eyes are sometimes confused with hazel eyes, which have both brown and green in them. To tell the difference, go into natural lighting (outside during the day), and look at your eyes compared with someone you know to have green, hazel, or brown eyes. The difference should be clear between them.

Where Do Green Eyes Originate From?

Green eyes are most common in Northern and Central Europe though they can also be found in Southern Europe as well as Western Asia. As was mentioned earlier, brown hair and eyes are dominant in most regions, though there are several countries where it is actually more common to have green or blue eyes than brown eyes.

For example, in Ireland and Scotland, 86% of the population has either blue or green eyes, and in Iceland, 89% of women and 87% of men have blue or green eyes. Among European Americans, green eyes are most common in people of recent Celtic or Germanic ancestry. Green eyes also tend to be more common in women.

Even though they're most common in Northern and Central Europe, people of any race can have green eyes.

Celebrities with Green Eyes

  • Adele
  • Emma Stone
  • Amanda Seyfried
  • Clive Owen
  • Jon Hamm
  • Eddie Redmayne
  • Kate Middleton
  • Gael Garcia Bernal

 

 Some very blue eyes can appear to be violet.
Some very blue eyes can appear to be violet.

Violet and Red Eyes

This might be disappointing for some, but true violet or red-colored eyes do not occur naturally in humans. Some eyes, however, can appear to be violet under certain lighting or makeup conditions.

Elizabeth Taylor is famous for her violet eyes, though in reality she just has very blue eyes that can look violet depending on the lighting. She does, however, have a row of double eyelashes, a rare genetic mutation.

People with albinism, a condition that causes a complete lack of or very low levels of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes, sometimes appear to have violet or red eyes. This phenomenon is explained below.

Amber eyes are more common in animals than in humans.
Amber eyes are more common in animals than in humans. Source

Also Very Rare: Amber Eyes

True amber eyes are extremely rare—they are at least as rare as green eyes or perhaps even rarer. Most people have only seen a couple of amber-eyed people in their entire life.

Amber eyes are completely solid and have a strong yellowish, golden, or russet and coppery tint. They can also contain a small amount of gold-ish gray. Some sources say that this could be due to the increased presence of a pigment called lipochrome (also known as pheomelanin).

Amber eyes are often referred to as wolf eyes because of the strong golden and yellowish color with a copper tint similar to that seen in the eyes of wolves. Besides wolves, amber eye color can also be found in other animals, like dogs, domestic cats, owls, eagles, pigeons and fish.

The Difference Between Amber and Other Eye Colors

Amber eyes are different from hazel eyes because they do not contain hints of brown, green, or orange. While hazel eyes might change color or contain flecks of red or gold, amber eyes are always a solid gold hue.

In poor lighting, it's easy to mistake someone with amber eyes for someone with hazel eyes. In natural lighting, however, you’ll see that hazel eyes tend to have two very distinct colors within the iris. They are often brown and green, and contain speckles and mixed hues.

Celebrities with Amber Eyes Include:

  • Nicole Richie
  • Nikki Reid
  • Evangeline Lilly
  • Darren Criss
  • Rochelle Aytes
  • Joey Kern

 

Black Eyes

Contrary to popular belief, true black eyes do not exist. Some people with a lot of melanin in their eyes might appear to have black eyes depending on the lighting conditions. This is not truly black, however, but simply a very dark brown.

Hazel eyes vary between brown and green, depending on surrounding conditions like lighting.
Hazel eyes vary between brown and green, depending on surrounding conditions like lighting.

The Science Behind Eye Color

Eye color is more complicated than it might seem, as it's determined by a wide range of factors and can depend to some extent on circumstance, especially lighting.

Eye color is determined by:

  • Amount and type of melanin in the colored part of your eye called the iris
  • The density and composition of the stroma, a thin tissue in your iris
  • Lighting conditions (especially for people with light-colored eyes)

Eye Color and Genetics

Genetics determines how much pigment is present in the iris of your eye. Up to 16 different genes play a role in determining eye color though there are two main genes that have the most influence.

How Melanin Affects Eye Color

Melanin is the most common pigment, and it is found in the eyes, hair, and skin. There are several types of melanin, including pheomelanin (which looks more red and yellow) and eumelanin (which tends to look brown and black).

You might have noticed that there is no blue or green pigment mentioned, which means there is no green or blue pigment ever present in the eye. There is only one kind of pigment, melanin, and its derivatives. So how can a pigment that only produces shades of brown create eyes that look green or blue?

While the first half of eye color has to do with what's already in your eye, the other half has to do with what goes into it: Light!

How Light Affects Eye Color

Your iris has two layers, a front and a back one, and in between those is a thin layer of tissue called the stroma, which has proteins in it (namely collagen). This will become important later.

Everyone has some kind of pigment in their iris, which usually includes a layer of melanin on the back of the iris. The only exception to this is for some people with albinism, who completely lack pigment in their iris.

So, technically speaking, everyone (cases of albinism excepted) has the same eye color. The difference comes with how it's perceived, which is due to the amount and type of melanin in the front layer of the iris and how light interacts with it.

Melanin Content and Eye Color

Eye color
Melanin Presence on Front Layer of Iris
Melanin Presence on Back Layer of Iris
Dominant Pigment Type
Brown
Heavy
Normal
Eumelanin
Blue
Light
Normal
Eumelanin
Gray
Even less than blue
Normal
Eumelanin
Green
More than blue eyes, less than brown
Normal
Pheomelanin
Hazel
More than green, less than brown
Normal
Pheomelanin and Eumelanin
Amber
Heavy
Normal
Pheomelanin
Red or Violet
None or extremely little
None or extremely little
n/a
 

Biology Behind the Color: Eye by Eye

Blue Eyes

Blue-eyed people have no or little melanin on the front layer of the iris, so as light goes through the eye, it hits the back of the iris and then reflects out. As it goes through the stroma, the presence of proteins causes blue light to scatter, which makes the eye look blue.

This phenomenon (the scattering of light by particles much smaller than the wavelength of radiation) is called Rayleigh scattering, and it's the same reason the sky appears to be blue.

Gray Eyes

Unfortunately, we don’t really know why people have gray eyes. There are, however, some theories on where gray eyes come from:

  • Gray-eyed people could have an even smaller amount of melanin in their eyes than blue-eyed people.
  • They could have a different composition of the stroma that causes the light to scatter differently.

 

 
Original Post
@1130 posted:

I have green eyes,, and knew they were rare.  

big question, are celebs really that color or colored contact lenses?

second who cares about celebs?

A few years ago at work I met a black guy with green eyes...and he said he and I must be related because my eyes were green too. He asked me my last name and when I told him he said 'oh yes...I think we do have some of those in our family'. I had to break it to him that was my married name and no one in my husband's family had green eyes. I told him my maiden name and he said 'no...none of those in the family'. Again...I had no idea they were rare. I still think the blue eyes that are the color of Windex are the prettiest.

Last edited by Jutu

Add Reply

×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×