Brown Eyes vs. Hazel Eyes: What Makes Them So Special? – NVISION Eye Centers (2024)

Throughout the world, 79 percent of people have brown eyes and 5 percent have hazel eyes. These two colors are often considered the same color, but they are two distinct hues.

The iris of your eye is the part that has color. There are genes that work to determine whether your eyes are brown, hazel, or another color.

Both brown and hazel eyes are in the brown family. But hazel eyes feature other colors in addition to brown.

Table of Contents

  • Hazel vs. Brown Eyes
  • What Are the Unique Characteristics
  • How Do Brown and Hazel Eyes Occur?
  • Myths
  • Pros and Cons

Pigmentation plays a major role in whether you have brown or hazel eyes. Melanin also determines how dark your eyes become.

Both of these eye colors come with their benefits. For example, if you have brown eyes, you tend to have a lower risk of macular degeneration.

Hazel vs. Brown Eyes: Differences and similarities

Brown Eyes vs. Hazel Eyes: What Makes Them So Special? – NVISION Eye Centers (1)

Hazel and brown eyes are often considered similar due to their shared brown pigmentation, leading many to categorize them together. In certain types of lighting, especially in low light conditions, hazel eyes can even appear to be light brown, further confusing the distinction between hazel vs. brown eyes.


  1. Color Composition: The most striking difference between hazel and brown eyes lies in their color composition. Hazel eyes typically exhibit a combination of colors such as brown, amber, and green, with potential flecks of gray, blue, or gold. Brown eyes, on the other hand, are predominantly brown and may show only slight hints of green or other colors.
  2. Variation and Complexity: Hazel eyes often display a higher level of complexity in color pattern and can change appearance depending on lighting conditions. Brown eyes tend to be more uniform and consistent in color.
  3. Genetics: The genetics behind hazel and brown eyes also vary. Hazel eyes are less common and may result from a combination of genetic factors leading to a more diverse color spectrum. Brown eyes are the most common eye color worldwide, with a more straightforward genetic explanation.


  1. Shared Brown Pigment: Both hazel and brown eyes contain brown pigmentation. This is often why they are perceived as similar and may look alike in particular lighting situations.
  2. Appearance of Rings or Flecks: Both brown and hazel eyes can display rings or flecks of different colors within the iris. While more pronounced in hazel eyes, this phenomenon can also occur in brown eyes, adding to their distinctiveness.
  3. Perception Variation: The perception of both hazel and brown eyes can change based on the light and angle of viewing. While more pronounced in hazel eyes, brown eyes can also appear different in various lighting conditions.
  4. Uniqueness: One universal trait between hazel and brown eyes is their uniqueness. No set of hazel or brown eyes is exactly like another’s, leading to individual distinctions and making each person’s eyes special.

While hazel and brown eyes share some commonalities, they exhibit key differences, particularly in their color composition and complexity. Understanding the nuances of hazel vs. brown eyes enables a richer appreciation of the diversity and beauty present within human eyes.

Brown Eyes vs. Hazel Eyes: What Makes Them So Special? – NVISION Eye Centers (2)

The genes associated with eye color largely work in the transport, storage, and production of melanin — the pigment that results in eye color. Two of the common genes are HERC2 and OCA2.

A substance called a P protein works to mature melanosomes. These are a type of cellular structure that work to store and produce melanin. The OCA2 gene produces this protein. Since brown eyes have a lot of melanin, they have higher levels of P protein.

HERC2 has a region referred to as intron 86. Within this region is a DNA segment that controls OCA2 gene activity. HERC2 essentially turns the OCA2 gene off or on when it is necessary. With higher OCA2 activity, your eyes will be darker.

While these two genes are the ones that are primarily responsible for eye color, they are not the only genes that play a role. It is believed that other genes play a lesser role in eye color by combining with HERC2 and OCA2 to produce a variety of eye colors.

In many cases, you can predict a child’s eye color based on their parents. However, there are certain genetic variations that make some results unpredictable.

What Are the Unique Characteristics of Brown and Hazel Eyes?

The pigmentation and melanin levels of these eye colors are unique compared to other eye colors. The more melanin in the iris of your eyes, the darker they are.

Both hazel and brown eyes have a normal level of melanin presence at the back layer. At the front layer, brown eyes have a heavy melanin presence. At this layer with hazel eyes, the presence of green is higher than the presence of brown.

The pigment eumelanin is a dominant pigment in both hazel and brown eyes. Hazel eyes also have another dominant pigment known as pheomelanin.

Myths About Brown and Hazel Eyes

It was once believed that one gene determined a person’s eye color. It turns out that there could be up to 16 genes responsible for this.

Because there are so many genes at play, parents can have children with an eye color that neither of them have.

Pros and Cons of Brown and Hazel Eyes

Brown Eyes vs. Hazel Eyes: What Makes Them So Special? – NVISION Eye Centers (3)

Brown eyes are associated with increased and decreased risks of certain eye issues. When people have brown eyes, they tend to be at a lower risk for macular degeneration, eye cancer, and diabetic retinopathy. While the reason why is unclear, it is believed that this is due to brown eyes having greater protection due to a higher level of melanin.

Another possible benefit of hazel or brown eyes is that you may be less prone to damage from environmental noise. It is believed that the higher level of melanin may offer protective benefits for the brain’s nerves that may experience damage due to noise.

On the other side, brown eyes may be at a higher risk for developing cataracts. One study found that the risk may be twice as high as people with other eye colors. Exactly why this happens was not explored by the study.

Brown and hazel eyes have a variety of distinct characteristics that make them desirable colors.


  1. The World’s Population by Eye Color Percentages. World Atlas.
  2. Why Are Brown Eyes the Most Common? (August 2017). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  3. Genotype-Phenotype Associations and Human Eye Color. (October 2010). Journal of Human Genetics.
  4. Iris Color and Cataract: The Blue Mountains Eye Study. (August 2000). American Journal of Ophthalmology.
  5. Eye Color Linked to Pain Tolerance in Pilot Study at Pitt. (July 2014). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  6. Is Eye Color Determined by Genetics? (May 2015). Genetics Home Reference.

The information provided on this page should not be used in place of information provided by a doctor or specialist. To learn more, read our Privacy Policy and Editorial Policy pages.

Brown Eyes vs. Hazel Eyes: What Makes Them So Special? – NVISION Eye Centers (2024)


How are hazel eyes different from brown eyes? ›

Like with green and hazel, the difference between hazel and brown eyes can sometimes be hard to see. Hazel eyes might appear light brown from a distance. But closer inspection of hazel eyes shows flecks or bands of another color as well. Brown eyes, on the other hand, are brown throughout the entire iris.

What makes hazel eyes so special? ›

Only about 5 percent of the population worldwide has the hazel eye genetic mutation. After brown eyes, they have the most melanin. . The combination of having less melanin (as with green eyes) and a lot of melanin (like brown eyes) make this eye color unique.

What makes brown eyes unique? ›

They're unique.

Another thing that makes brown eyes unique is that they can often change color in different lighting. For example, they may appear lighter in the sun and darker in the shade. This is because brown eyes have more melanin than other eye colors.

Which eye color has the best vision? ›

While lighter-colored eyes may be more sensitive to sunlight, they are not necessarily more sensitive to vision. In fact, blue eyes have better visual acuity than brown eyes. This means that blue-eyed people can see small details more clearly.

What ethnicity has hazel eyes? ›

Anyone can be born with hazel eyes, but it's most common in people of Brazilian, Middle Eastern, North African, or Spanish descent. When eyes are hazel, they are brown mixed with amber and green. In some cases, there are shades of gray, blue, and gold within the iris too.

Are brown eyes or hazel eyes prettier? ›

Hazel Is Considered the Most Attractive Eye Color in Females

The female profile with the hazel eyes was matched with prospective dates 20.19% of the time.

What color compliments hazel eyes the most? ›

According to Hurkman, those with hazel eyes should reach for purples, browns, golds, and greens in their makeup. She'd recommend Charlotte Tilbury's Luxury Eyeshadow Palette in The Vintage Vamp—a buildable shadow quad consisting of warm purple and red tones.

Are hazel eyes attractive to females? ›

Hazel eyes are second in terms of having the most melanin, however, their eye is most pigmented around the edge of the iris with a combination of gold, brown and green filling the centre. Hazel eyes have also been voted as one of the most attractive eye colours.

What color accents hazel eyes? ›

What color brings out hazel eyes? Hazel eyes have flecks of gold, green, and brown, so it's best to play them up with warm-toned blondes, browns, and reds if you really want your eye color to stand out. If your hazel eyes have a lot of green in them, rich red shades like auburn and copper will work best for you.

Why do people trust brown eyes more? ›

In conclusion, brown-eyed individuals tend to be perceived as more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones within a population with variable eye color, but it is not brown eyes that cause this perception. It is the facial morphology linked to brown eyes.

What are the facts about hazel eyes? ›

People with hazel eyes tend to have a moderate amount of melanin in their irises. Specifically, the amount of melanin in a hazel-eyed person is higher than in green eyes and lower than in amber eyes. This moderate amount of melanin results in the unique gold-green colour associated with hazel eyes.

What is the unique eye color in the world? ›

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. Green eyes don't possess a lot of melanin, which creates a Rayleigh scattering effect: Light gets reflected and scattered by the eyes instead of absorbed by pigment.

What is the hardest eye color to get? ›

Violet or red eyes are among the rarest eye colors, with less than 0.01% of the population having this unique hue. This eye color is often associated with albinism, a genetic condition that results in the absence of melanin, the pigment responsible for coloring hair, skin, and eyes.

What is the most attractive eye shape? ›

Almond eyes are considered the most ideal eye shape because you can pretty much pull off any eyeshadow look. And believe me, this is a huge plus! Almond eyes have an oval shape with a slightly upturned outer corner.

What eye color has worse vision? ›

Eye color doesn't significantly affect the sharpness of your vision, but it can affect visual comfort in certain situations.

Are hazel eyes dominant over brown? ›

Because there are two genes for brown eyes, and hazel eyes are a mixture of brown and green. Brown eyes has two genes and they are dominant genes: BB [two brown eye genes] and Bb [brown eye gene plus blue eye gene]. Blue eyes [b] and green eyes [g] are recessive genes.

Are hazel eyes basically brown? ›

Hazel eyes are eyes that have a combination of green, gold, and brown coloring, which sets them apart from most other eyes, which are a solid color. The amount of each color can vary among different people with hazel eyes, which can cause hazel green eyes or hazel brown eyes.

Are hazel eyes rarer than brown eyes? ›

Green is also the rarest eye color in America. A 2014 survey by the Academy found that 45 percent of Americans had brown eyes, 27 percent had blue eyes, 18 percent had hazel eyes and nine percent had green eyes. The survey also found that 1 percent had eyes that were a color not listed.

Are hazel eyes more green or brown? ›

Hazel eyes mostly consist of shades of brown and green. Much like gray eyes, hazel eyes may appear to “change color” from green to light brown to gold.


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