Some eye colors are more common than others. Which one is the rarest? (2024)

Bebe HodgesUSA TODAY

There are many ways to feel special. Maybe you’re a stellar athlete. Maybe you excel at your job. Or maybe you have a unique physical trait like a rare eye color.

Ever wondered if the latter is the case?

There are four main eye colors in the human population. These are brown, blue, hazel and green. We talked to Dr. Purnima Patel, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and ophthalmologist at ORA Vision in Atlanta, to find out how common each eye color is – and which one is the rarest of them all.

What is the rarest eye color?

The rarest eye color is green, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Only two percent of the global population has green 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.

Some colors that are not included in the main four may be due to uncertainties or conditions. Gray eyes have traditionally been labeled a shade of blue. Although some studies are considering it its own color. Some people who have albinism may appear to have pink or pale red-colored eyes, but this is because you can see the blood vessels in their eyes. Some people have two different colored eyes. This is a condition called heterochromia.

Why are green eyes so rare?

To understand why some colors are rarer than others, it’s helpful to know what causes eye color in the first place. Every iris contains a pigment called melanin, but the amount of melanin varies from person to person. No person has the exact same amount of melanin in their irises.

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The amount of melanin in your iris determines your eye color. “It’s all about the internal reflection of light proportional to the amount of melanin,” says Patel. “It’s not really that the iris is … green, its actually that the amount of melanin that that iris has is reflecting a color and it happens to be green in color.”

Brown eyes have the most melanin, and blue eyes have the least amount of melanin. The amount of melanin in green irises is somewhere between blue eyes and brown eyes. This amount is the least common you can have. Experts don’t have a reason for why exactly that’s the case, says Patel.

Why are brown eyes the most common?

They do have a theory as to why darker eye colors are more common than lighter eye colors though. Melanin acts as a protective agent for the eye against harmful UV light, which means that in sunny areas brown eyes would be an adaptive trait. When humans lived primarily near the equator, they would have all had brown eyes. Perhaps, as our human ancestors moved away from the equator, a large amount of melanin was no longer necessary to protect the eyes, says Patel. This would allow for genetic mutations that caused lighter eye colors like blue and green to survive in the gene pool and be passed on to later generations.

Key takeaway – if you have green eyes, you’re special! But don’t fret brown-eyed people. At least your melanin has an adaptive advantage.

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Some eye colors are more common than others. Which one is the rarest? (2024)


Some eye colors are more common than others. Which one is the rarest? ›

Of those four, green is the rarest. It shows up in about 9% of Americans but only 2% of the world's population. Hazel/amber is the next rarest color after green. Blue is the second most common and brown tops the list, found in 45% of the U.S. population and possibly almost 80% worldwide.

What is the rarest eye color? ›

While the global data on eye colors is limited, red and violet eyes are likely the rarest eye colors since they only affect a small group of people with albinism. But if you exclude eye colors brought on by albinism, then green and gray are likely the rarest.

Why are some eye colors more common than others? ›

Eye color is determined by variations in a person's genes. Most of the genes associated with eye color are involved in the production, transport, or storage of a pigment called melanin. Eye color is directly related to the amount of melanin in the front layers of the iris.

What's the most common eye color? ›

The most common eye color is brown. More than half of the world's population has brown eyes (some experts include amber as a shade of brown, too). A key reason is the range of shades that fall under this color. Brown eyes can range from light to dark.

Which is more rare, grey or green eyes? ›

The rarest eye colour of those that we commonly see is green, with just 2% of the world having green eyes. Brown is the most common and we are also used to seeing blue eyes. Grey and hazel eyes are also rarer to see.

What is the prettiest eye color? ›

When broken down by gender, men ranked gray, blue, and green eyes as the most attractive, while women said they were most attracted to green, hazel, and gray eyes. Despite brown eyes ranking at the bottom of our perceived attraction scale, approximately 79% of the world's population sports melanin-rich brown eyes.

What color are grey eyes? ›

Just like other eye colors, grey eyes can vary in their appearance—from lighter to darker shades. Grey eyes may have flecks of gold or green in them. And, similar to hazel eyes, it's possible to see variations in coloring. Blue-grey, green-grey, and even hazel-grey hues are possible.

Who had purple eyes? ›

For those too young to remember, Elizabeth Taylor was a beautiful movie star. In her heyday from the 1950s to the 1970s — long before colored contact lenses were available — she was famous for her supposedly violet eyes. In fact, her eyes were dark blue but in a specific lighting, they looked violet.

What color do grey babies eyes turn? ›

What color will gray baby eyes turn? At birth, your baby's eyes may appear gray or blue due to a lack of pigment. Once exposed to light, the eye color will most likely start to change to blue, green, hazel, or brown over a period of six months to one year.

Is there black eye color? ›

While some people may appear to have irises that are black, they don't technically exist. People with black-colored eyes instead have very dark brown eyes that are almost indistinguishable from the pupil. In fact, brown eyes are even the most common eye color in newborn babies.

What is the strongest eye color? ›

The allele for brown eyes is the most dominant allele and is always dominant over the other two alleles and the allele for green eyes is always dominant over the allele for blue eyes, which is always recessive.

Do your eyes change color as you age? ›

Minor Changes Are Common

For example, long-term sun exposure may cause your eyes to darken slightly, while a small percentage of Caucasian people's eyes lighten as they age. For the most part, though, your eye color will not actually change, and significant changes may be a sign of a larger problem.

What is the most trusted eye color? ›

Summary: People view brown-eyed faces as more trustworthy than those with blue eyes, except if the blue eyes belong to a broad-faced man, according to new research.

What is the 2 rarest eye color? ›

Of those four, green is the rarest. It shows up in about 9% of Americans but only 2% of the world's population. Hazel/amber is the next rarest color after green.

What is the rarest hair and eye color combination? ›

According to an article by evolutionary biology professor Mark Elgar, PhD, of the University of Melbourne, blue-eyed redheads are the absolute rarest, with 0.17% of the population having that combination of hair and eye color. So if that describes you, you're most likely one in a million—or more!

Where do hazel eyes come from? ›

The way light scatters in hazel irises is a result of Rayleigh scattering, the same optical phenomenon that causes the sky to appear blue. Anyone can be born with hazel eyes, but it's most common in people of Brazilian, Middle Eastern, North African, or Spanish descent.

Do purple eyes exist? ›

Although the deep blue eyes of some people such as Elizabeth Taylor can appear purple or violet at certain times, "true" violet-colored eyes occur only due to albinism. Eyes that appear red or violet under certain conditions due to albinism are less than 1 percent of the world's population.

Do red eyes exist? ›

Red/Pink Eyes

Two major conditions cause a red or pinkish eye color: albinism and blood leaking into the iris. Although albinos tend to have very, very light blue eyes due to a lack of pigment, some forms of albinism can cause eyes to appear red or pink. Amber eyes are a beautiful honey color!

Why are green eyes so rare? ›

Green eyes are the most rare eye color in the world. Only about 2 percent of people in the world have naturally green eyes. Green eyes are a genetic mutation that results in low levels of melanin, though more melanin than in blue eyes. Green eyes don't actually have any color.


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