The Difference Between Green and Hazel Eyes

Updated on November 11, 2019
anatomynotes profile image

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


Are My Eyes Green or Hazel?

There are clear differences between green and hazel eyes, but yet it is easy to mistake one for the other. A green eye usually has a solid green hue with more or less a single color throughout the iris. A hazel eye, on the other hand, has more going for it than the average green eye. Hazel eyes are multi-coloured, with a shade of green and a characteristic burst of brown or gold radiating outwards from around the pupil.

Summary of the Differences Between Green and Hazel Eye Colors

One solid hue of green
Multicolored with shades of green, brown and/or gold
Melanin (brown pigment found in the iris of the eye)
Less melanin
More melanin
The brown color in hazel eyes is closer to the pupil and is surrounded by green towards the outside of the iris.
The more subtle the brown (in hazel), the harder it is to tell the colors apart.
The more subtle the brown (in hazel), the harder it is to tell the colors apart. | Source

When it comes to eye color, the possibilities are endless. There is a huge variety of shades of green eyes. In hazel eyes, the amount of brown varies from one person to another. This ranges from a glint to a strong brown or gold color, depending on the concentration and type of melanin in the iris.

What Is the Difference Between Brown and Hazel Eyes?

Brown Eyes
Hazel Eyes

The Science Behind Green Eyes

Green and blue pigments are seldom found in animals. However, some animals such as peacocks and snakes have developed a remarkable optical technology to create brilliant shades of blue and green without using even a single speck of a green or blue pigment. These animals have specialized microscopic structures that scatter light in a way that makes it appear green or blue to humans. This phenomenon that produces structural colors is known as Rayleigh Scattering—it is also used to explain why the sky is blue. The human eye also makes use of such a hack to make green and blue eye colors.

Even though sunlight appears white to the naked eye, it consists of a mixture of several colors. Inside the iris of the human eyeball, molecules of the stroma have a special structure that scatters light in a way that makes the iris appear blue. The main reason for this is that blue light has a shorter wavelength than most of the other components of white light. Hence, it is scattered more as it interacts with molecules of the stroma.

The color in blue eyes is not entirely structural. People with green eyes have a bit more melanin than people with blue eyes. The slightly higher melanin concentration combines with the structural blue color to makes the iris look green. In brown eyes, there is more than enough melanin to completely mask the blue color. So would all be blue-eyed if everyone had a relatively low amount of melanin.

  • Scattering of light in the stroma + Some melanin = Green color
  • Varying amounts of melanin = Different shades of green

Rayleigh Scattering also explains why the sky is blue
Rayleigh Scattering also explains why the sky is blue

What Color Is Hazel Eyes?

The effect of Rayleigh scattering coupled with a higher melanin concentration around the pupils gives hazel eyes their characteristic brown-to-green color. All hazel eyes basically have some combination of two distinct colors when viewed under normal lighting—brown/gold and green coloring. The magnitude of the brown color varies from person to person and is directly proportional to the amount of melanin in the iris. Hazel eyes may have a yellowish-brown, dark brown, or amber-brown surrounding the pupil.

Some folks with hazel eyes observe shifts in their eye color between hazel and green or brown. This is usually caused by a change in environmental factors such as the amount of lighting in a room and the color of surrounding objects. This shift in eye color also depends on the ratio of brown-to-green in the iris. When green is more pronounced than brown, hazel eyes tend to be perceived as green in green lighting or in the presence of a bright green object in the surrounding—like a bright green party gown. On the other hand, when brown is more pronounced than green then hazel eyes may appear brown in the presence of a brown object in the surrounding.

This is why we tend to easily mistake hazel eyes for green or brown eyes. As we have seen above, there is no physical change in the eye accompanying this color shift. What actually changes is the way we perceived the eye color.

How to Observe Your Eye Color

Here are some tips on how to discover your true color.

  • Try observing your eyes in daylight. Don't use artificial light as this isn't accurate.
  • Stand against a white background and remove objects from your surrounding if they potentially impact your eye color.
  • If there is no friend around to help you with this task, a small mirror can be handy (a mirror is actually more accurate than a phone, which can distort the color).

Hazel eyes will have a mixture of green, brown, and gold colors, often with a burst of one color close to the pupil, while the outer part of the iris is a different color.

Are Hazel and Green Eyes Rare?

Hazel is definitely one of the rarer colors when it comes to a person's eyes. According to World Atlas, approximately 5% of the world has hazel eyes, making it less common than brown and blue eyes. Surprisingly, only about 2% of people have green eyes. People with green eyes are found in Central, Western, and Northern Europe.

What Is Heterochromia?

Heterochromia is a rare condition characterized by abnormal pigmentation, commonly observed in the iris of the eye. Most cases are genetic, meaning that people with the condition are often born with it. However, some people acquire it later in life. When this happens, it can be an indication of an underlying health issue, especially when it involves a sudden change in eye color. Trauma to the eyeball is a major cause of acquired heterochromia. However, most cases of heterochromia are completely harmless. There are three main types:

Complete Heterochromia

This is when the color of one eye is completely different from that of the other.

The English actress Alice Eve has one blue and one green eye
The English actress Alice Eve has one blue and one green eye | Source

Complete heterochromia is more common in certain breeds of cats and dogs.

Siberian husky with complete heterochromia
Siberian husky with complete heterochromia | Source

Sectoral Heterochromia

This is when a section of the iris has a splash of another color (usually brown) than the rest of the iris. This is due to an uneven distribution of the melanin in the iris.

Sectoral heterochromia is probably the most common type of heterochromia
Sectoral heterochromia is probably the most common type of heterochromia | Source

Central heterochromia

This type of heterochromia manifests similarly to hazel eyes. It usually involves two distinct colors surrounding the pupil, one color closer to the pupil and the other color further away from the pupil.

An example of central heterochromia
An example of central heterochromia | Source

How Is Your Eye Color Determined?

While genetics play an important role in determining your eye color, it's been recently found that up to 16 genes play a role, with the two dominant ones being HERC2 and OCA2. While the OCA2 produces melanin, HERC2 is in charge of turning this gene off and on when necessary. With higher OCA2 activity, your eyes will be darker.

While previously thought to be impossible, a child's eye color may be different than both of their parents' eyes.

Two factors that influence how an eye color actually appears, include

  1. the amount of melanin in the eye's iris.
  2. how the light is scattered in the iris.

Can Your Eye Color Change?

While it's possible a person's eye color can change due to puberty, trauma, pregnancy, and age, it is rare. However, it is impossible for your eyes to change color based on your mood, the temperature, time of day, etc. Your mood may change your pupil size, but it's not actually changing the color. If you notice your eyes do change, this is almost always due to lighting.

For individuals looking for a change, the best way to do this is via colored contact lenses. While this is only temporary, it can be a fun way to play around with different looks.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image


        6 weeks ago

        My eyes are hazel color but I’m the only one in my family with light eyes. Everyone else has brown eyes? I thought the color of the eyes may be hereditary?

      • profile image


        7 weeks ago

        My eyes are very green but with a blue ring around.

        My skin is white and my hair is absolute black, charcoal.

      • profile image


        2 months ago

        @brian that's called a limbal ring

      • profile image


        2 months ago

        I have dark green eyes but I also have a charcoal/grey thicc ring at the outside of my eyes and I want to know why.

      • profile image

        General Void 

        3 months ago

        my friends have said my eyes look blue but they are normally green/brown so im guessing i have hazel eyes! I am looking for, also a resource that tells me why there is a charcoal like ring around the edge. when I look at my eyes under the right light, they are blue/grey, i notice a dark grey ring around the outside of my iris and im wondering what that is...

      • profile image


        3 months ago

        my eyes keep shifting from bright amber to a shade of brown.

      • profile image


        5 months ago

        I have odd khaki green coloured eyes. They are solid in colour and no flecks so not hazel.

      • profile image

        Simao Gonçalves 

        5 months ago

        Mine is strange I have green eye with blue around the pupil

      • profile image


        5 months ago

        My eyes are darker than hazel but they look more green and cadet blue and grey and spring green too and bit of indigo blue


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)