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All about Hazel Eyes (Can They Really Change Color?)

Updated: 19 May 2024 •  
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Hazel eyes have got to be one of the most adored eye colors out there. Named after the color of a hazelnut, their stunning multicolored appearance almost seems to shift colors depending on the time of day. No wonder they’re sometimes called the ‘eye color chameleon’!
But what exactly makes hazel eyes one-of-a-kind, and how can you bring them out best?
Read on to learn the fascinating science behind them, plus all the ways to play up this gorgeous eye color!

What are hazel eyes?

closeup of a hazel eye

A hazel colored iris from up close. Source: Unsplash

A defining trait of hazel eyes is the unique mix of colors found in the iris, which typically consist of brown, green, as well as flecks of gold (much like the shell of a hazelnut itself).
Another thing you’ll notice is a very obvious color difference between the inner and outer part of the iris. This really sets hazel eyes apart from other eye colors such as brown, blue, and even green, since they more or less have one solid tone throughout the iris.
What’s also interesting about hazel irises is the variety of color combinations that they come in. Some will have a prominent green color while others have a more dominant brown color, hence why some hazel eyes get mistaken for green eyes while others look almost like brown eyes in person or in photographs.

What determines hazel eye color?

Although your features can somewhat be predicted based on genetics, eye color is a bit of a trickier trait to determine—even more so for a non-solid color like hazel eyes.
There are up to 16 genes that can influence eye color, which explains how two blue eyed parents can end up with a child with brown eyes (and vice versa). Cool, huh?
We’ve explained a little more on this in our article on the rarest eye colors out there.
Apart from genes, there’s also another factor to consider: the amount of melanin present in your eyes. We know that those with dark eyes naturally have more melanin than those with light colored eyes, but in the case of hazel eyes, they have a medium amount of melanin that’s concentrated on one part of the iris, making the eyes darker in certain areas while the rest of the eye remains light in color.
But the thing is, melanin can also be developed as one ages, so a person with blue eyes can sometimes end up with hazel eyes, and those with hazel eyes may also end up with brown eyes over time.
That said, there are also cases where the pigment in one’s eyes becomes lighter as one gets older, which means that someone with dark brown eyes as a child may end up with hazel eyes towards adulthood.
Though if you’re not born with hazel eyes, or feel like your eyes aren’t likely to turn hazel in the (far) future, you can still get them with the help of some colored contact lenses. Today’s innovative designs come in a wide variety of gradients and patterns to give you the exact hazel look you want too.

Can hazel eyes really change color?

As much as we’d like to believe that hazel eyes can change color like a mood ring does, most of the time it’s really just a trick of the light! What you’re seeing is actually Rayleigh scattering — the same phenomenon that makes the sky appear blue.
What’s more, the pigments found in hazel eyes can also give a different impression under different kinds of light, so while the iris itself doesn’t change color, environmental factors can definitely affect how they look in comparison.
For example, wearing a green shirt can make hazel eyes look greener, the same way a brown backdrop can bring out the brown tones present in hazel eyes a bit more.
This ‘camouflaging’ effect is also emphasized whenever the pupils contract or dilate, as any small change in pupil size will also affect how light reflects in the eye (and the way we perceive it).
This may actually be the reason why people say hazel eyes change color depending on one’s mood!

How rare are hazel eyes?

Only 5% of people have hazel eyes, making the eye color not just unique, but also extremely rare. Though you’re more likely to see someone with brown or even blue eyes more often, you still have a good chance of spotting someone with hazel eyes if you live in Europe or in the U.S.
In particular, they’re most common in people of Spanish, Brazilian, Middle Eastern, and North African descent.

Comparing hazel to other eye colors

Hazel eyes vs brown eyes

side by side comparison between hazel and brown eyes

Difference between hazel and brown eyes.

Many pairs of hazel and brown eyes have almost the same amount of melanin, making it easy to mistake one for another—especially in low light. If you’re unsure if you have brown or hazel eyes, all you need to do is to observe your eye color in natural lighting using a mirror.
If your eyes have a noticeable burst of color towards the pupil and another color on the outer part of the iris, then your eyes are hazel. But if your eyes are primarily brown throughout the entire iris, then you have brown eyes.

Hazel eyes vs green eyes

side by side comparison between hazel and green eyes

Difference between hazel and green eyes.

Hazel and green eyes both get their colors from Rayleigh scattering, but it’s the way the light is scattered in the iris combined with the levels of melanin that distinguishes one from another.
Hazel eyes have a substantial amount of melanin towards the center—or in some cases the outer region—of their irises, giving them their signature green-brown appearance. On the other hand, green eyes have considerably less melanin compared to hazel eyes, giving them their solid green hue.

Are people with lighter eyes more at risk for eye problems?

One of the main functions of melanin is to protect us from the sun’s UV rays, making those with light eyes – such as hazel eyes – a bit more sensitive to sunlight and blue light compared to their dark eyed counterparts.
So if you have light colored eyes, it’s important to minimize exposure to harsh lights to prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases. One way you can do this is to wear UV blocking sunglasses, as well as blue light glasses.

Celebs with hazel eyes (and their fave eyewear!)

Curious to see which celebrities are blessed with this rare eye color? Here are some of Hollywood’s brightest stars flaunting their gorgeous hazel eyes with the help of eyeglasses:

1. Demi Moore

demi moore and her glasses with hazel eyes

Demi Moore in 70s style aviators. Source: InStyle

Demi Moore’s hazel eyes are without a doubt one of the actress’ most coveted features, and she sure knows how to show them off too! Adorned with a luxurious gold aviator frame, the golden flecks in her eyes appear even more aureate.

2. Sarah Hyland

sarah hyland and her glasses with hazel eyes

Sarah Hyland in honey colored frames. Source: Pinterest

Sarah Hyland loves translucent frames, and we can definitely see why. The barely-there hue makes the perfect canvas for her beautiful hazel eyes to shine. We think the honey color is pretty spot on too—it emphasizes the contrast between the brown and green tones in her irises so well!

3. Darren Criss

darren criss and his glasses with hazel eyes

Darren Criss in two-toned specs. Source: Pinterest

What better way to complement multicolored eyes than with multicolored frames? Singer-actor Darren Criss shows us how it’s done with two-toned frames featuring a black to caramel-colored gradient. The earthy hue towards the bottom adds warmth not just to his eyes, but to his complexion too.

How to bring out your hazel eyes with makeup

As mentioned earlier, hazel eyes give off a different look depending on the colors you pair them with. Thus, when complementing hazel eyes, you’ll first need to think about which color you’d like to enhance.
caris shelton and hailey bieber makeup for their hazel eyes

Green eye makeup is a must-try for those with hazel eyes. Source: Caris Shelton and Hailey Bieber.

If you’d like to bring out the green in your eyes, an emerald or olive colored eyeshadow will do just the trick. But, you can also go for a smokey green liner for a more subtle take.
phoebe tonkin with bronze glam for hazel eyes

This bronze glam makes Phoebe Tonkin’s hazel eyes look even more stunning. Source: Pinterest

For those who prefer something on the more neutral side, you really can’t go wrong with a copper or bronze smokey eye. And if you’re in the mood for an extra dose of glamour, we recommend dusting a glittery gold eyeshadow on your lids to mimic the golden flecks of your uniquely colored irises.
lucy hale with pink eyeshadow for her hazel eyes

This pretty pink eyeshadow look on Lucy Hale really makes her hazel eyes pop. Source: Pinterest

Feeling adventurous? Try contrasting your hazel eyes with pink, berry, or purple shades for an unexpected twist to your everyday look. Or better yet, mix all three colors for a bit of editorial edge.

What eyewear best complements hazel eyes?

As you may have already guessed, the same color principles in clothing and makeup apply to eyewear too! Check out our top picks below from Mouqy to make your hazel eyes sparkle.
It’s always golden hour with these gilded metallic frames. Take your pick between a sassy cat eye or a classic pair of aviators and get ready to shine all day.
mouqy diana with cat eye frame

The Diana cat eye in gold.

Mouqy Denica with aviator frame

The Denica aviator in gold.

A neutral brown is always a tasteful choice for anyone with hazel eyes.
mouqy willie with acetate frame

The Willie in clear brown.

Greener pastures await with this modern and youthful acetate frame. They’ll bring out the vivacity of your hazel eyes like no other!
mouqy kuma with acetate frame

The Kuma in clear green.

The tones in these multicolored frames will match your multicolored hazel eyes perfectly.
mouqy vivian with tortoise shell frame

The Vivian in tortoiseshell print.

Here’s a tortoiseshell option if you’d like a more dialed down print that’ll accentuate your hazel eyes.
mouqy bravo with tortoise shell frame

The Bravo in tortoiseshell print.

Make everyone green with envy with this one-of-a-kind green and gold frame.
mouqy teresa with gold frame

The Teresa with a metal frame in gold.

Your hazel eyes will look oh-so-pretty in these pink frames.
mouqy verity with acetate frame

The Verity in candy pink.

mouqy zowie with acetate frame

The Zowie in clear pink.

Stand out in any crowd with a trendy purple frame in a vintage-inspired silhouette.
mouqy theda with acetate frame

The Theda in purple.

For more tips and tricks on how to find the perfect frame color for your unique features, check out our guide on choosing frame color.

Allysa Gatchalian
Allysa Gatchalian is a beauty, fashion and lifestyle writer based in Manila. She loves trying out new trends, discovering new k-dramas to watch, and sharing her favorite finds with friends.

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