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Can We Change The Eye Color We Were Born With?

By Antonia Čirjak January 23 2020

Blue eyes.
Blue eyes.

There is a piece of advice circulating the internet that you can change your eye color if you put a drop of honey into your eyes every night. We think you should know: it will not change your eye color permanently, but it can easily cause you to go blind - so, be smart, don't do it. The reason behind the temporary color change some people see is due to the inflammation of the cornea and underlying tissues caused by the honey. 

There are many safe ways to change the appearance of your eye color: smartly selected clothing and makeup, hair color, and toned contact lenses. Modern lenses can be very cheap, comfortable to wear, and can give you exotic, attention-grabbing tone - no need to pour any substances into such sensitive organs as your eyes. 

But were you perhaps wondering which eye colors are rare, and which are more common among people? How do your eyes change with age? These and more answers to some of the most interesting questions about eye colors are coming next!

Genetics And Eye Color

The eye color, or rather, the amount of the pigment in the iris, is determined by genetics. In the past, scientists believed that it was as simple as “blue is recessive, dark is dominant,”; and it is true that, in general, darker colors tend to dominate. But we keep uncovering more facts about our genetics. 

Close up of an eye.
Close up of an eye.

Now we know that although two genes, OCA2 and HERC2, have the most influence, 16 genes are currently known to impact it overall. But almost any combination is still possible because of the complex interaction between 16 (or more) genes. So it is not possible to accurately predict a child’s eye color with full certainty, although there are some online tools with which you can have fun playing.

Common Eye Colors

Brown and Hazel eye colors are the vast majority, around 60 to 75% of the world population. As we explained previously, melanin in our eyes is a useful form of protection, so it is not surprising that the majority of the humans' sport this most beneficial adaptation.

Brown eyes have the most melanin within your irises. It means your eyes are the best protected from the harmful types of sun radiation (compared to other colors). Hazel-eyed people are second when it comes to the amount of melanin, with a slightly different manner of concentration. “Hazel” is a bit confusing term: these eyes are typically a mix of brown and green, with multiple speckles or spots of mixed hues.

Rare Eye Colors

About 10 percent of the world that have various tones of blue color. There is a scientific hypothesis stating that blue eyes, being more sensitive to light, have a slightly better night vision. Scientists go as far as suggesting that blue-eyed populations shared a very ancient common ancestry (thousands of years ago) when a mutation occurred. However, the hypothesis is challenged because we now know how many genes are responsible for eye color and how complex the system of factors that produces light-colored eyes is. 

Green eyes have low or moderate amounts of melanin; the lighter - the less, and the mix of melanin types consists of both eumelanin and pheomelanin. It is estimated that between 2 and 4 percent of the population have green eyes. It is suggested that blue, green, and grey eyes are more susceptible to sun exposure-related eye problems, so it makes sense to take extra care. 

Close up of green eyes of a girl.
Close up of green eyes of a girl.

About 3 percent of the population has cloud grey to silvery eyes. It's suspected that gray-eyed people have a similar or smaller amount of melanin in their eyes than those with blue or green eyes, or that its deposition in the stroma is slightly more scattered. Amber eyes are very rare and occur when the eumelanin is replaced with pheomelanin, producing solid colored yellow or golden eyes. 

Unique Or Abnormal Eye Colors 

Aniridia is not precisely related to the iris color, but it makes eyes to appear black, so it is worth mentioning. It is a rare genetic condition when a person is born with so little iris that it is almost invisible. People with aniridia have a hard time adjusting to the sudden changes in lighting conditions, for example, stepping from the shade into bright sunlight. 

Albinism can make eyes appear red, pink, or light violet: it is because there is no melanin in the iris, and what we see is the color of the blood capillaries in the iris, with some partial light scattering in the stroma. In humans, albinism causes exceptionally pale white skin and white hair. True purple or violet eyes do not occur in humans. Elizabeth Taylor, famous for her violet eyes, has very bright blue ones that appear violet in particular lightning and clothing color scheme.

Happy husky with heterochromia.
Happy husky with heterochromia.

Heterochromia is a result of the uneven or asymmetrical deposition of melanin in the eyes. Central heterochromia, when the iris ring around the pupil has a different color from the rest, is pretty standard. Partial heterochromia (when a segment of an iris is of a different color) or complete heterochromia (two different colored eyes), is relatively rare in humans. However, it is quite common in some breeds of domesticated animals, such as Siberian Huskies and Siamese cats. Kate Bosworth is an example of a person with heterochromia. 

The Natural Change Of Color 

Angle and the type of illumination in the room affect the perceived color for many light eyes. Eyes also change color with aging. A lot of caucasian babies have blue eyes when they are born because, at that point in life, there are minimal amounts of pigment in the stroma, and their eyes look blue thanks to the light scattering from the posterior epithelium. As melanin gets produced during the first year or two, their eyes change color, sometimes drastically. After two or three years of age, the color change will slow down or even settle.

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