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Do I have green or hazel eyes?

Determining your true eye color can be tricky if your eyes seem to shift between shades of green and brown. Many people with hazel eyes wonder if their eye color is considered green or hazel. The difference between green and hazel eyes has to do with the concentration and distribution of melanin pigments in the iris. By examining your eye color in different lighting conditions and learning more about the causes of green and hazel eyes, you can better understand your unique eye color.

Quick Answer: How to Know if You Have Green or Hazel Eyes

Here are some quick tips for determining if your eye color is green or hazel:

  • Hazel eyes have a brown/green mix and may appear to shift in color
  • Green eyes are a solid green shade with no brown
  • Examine your eyes in natural sunlight – green eyes will look very green, hazel eyes will have some brown
  • Use a magnifying mirror to see if you have brown spots or flecks mixed in
  • Hazel eyes commonly have a multi-colored appearance with a “sunburst” pattern
  • Ask friends/family what color they think your eyes are

The Difference Between Green and Hazel Eyes

The main difference between green and hazel eyes comes down to the different pigment concentrations in the iris:

  • Green eyes have a high concentration of melanin in the anterior border layer of the iris that absorbs light and produces a solid green color.
  • Hazel eyes have a moderate-low melanin concentration with a mixture of brown and green that can look golden/amber.

Additionally, here are some other distinguishing characteristics of green vs. hazel eyes:

Green Eyes Hazel Eyes
Solid, vivid green shade Multicolored appearance
Very little brown or gold Central heterochromia (mix of colors)
Low melanin overall Moderate melanin concentration
Appear green in sunlight Shift between green/brown

Genetics and Causes

The specific genetics behind eye color determination are quite complex, but here is a basic overview:

  • The main gene influencing eye color is the OCA2 gene, which codes for melanin production.
  • A specific variant of the OCA2 gene leads to reduced melanin in the iris, resulting in green eyes.
  • The amount of melanin present is also influenced by other genes like SLC24A4, TYR, HERC2 etc.
  • The interaction of these genes produces different concentrations of melanin that give rise to eye colors like brown, hazel, green, blue etc.

In hazel eyes, there is a moderate degree of melanin with a mixture of brown and green. The brown areas will have higher melanin levels compared to the green regions. The scattering of melanin is less even in hazel eyes, producing a multi-colored appearance.

Identifying Your Eye Color

Here are some tips for identifying if your own eyes are green or hazel:

  • Examine in sunlight – Look at your eyes in direct outdoor sunlight. Green eyes will look very vivid green while hazel eyes will appear greener-brown.
  • Use a mirror – Use a magnifying mirror to inspect for brown spots or flecks in the iris which indicate hazel eyes.
  • Multiple colors? – Hazel eyes commonly have a “sunburst” pattern with different colors around the pupil while green eyes are a solid shade.
  • Ask others – Have friends/family look at your eye color to get their opinion on whether it is green or hazel.
  • Lighting conditions – Hazel eyes can shift between looking more green or brown depending on lighting conditions due to the melanin concentrations.

Prevalence of Green and Hazel Eyes

In terms of global population, here is how common green and hazel eyes are:

  • Green eyes – Less than 2% of people worldwide
  • Hazel eyes – 5-10% of people worldwide

This makes truly green eyes quite rare globally. Hazel eyes are more common, but are still relatively uncommon compared to brown eyes which make up 70-90% of eye colors worldwide.

Some regions like Northern/Central Europe have higher percentages of people with green and hazel eyes. But they are still considered uncommon compared to brown/blue eyes in most countries.

Difference in Appearance

Because hazel eyes have a mixture of melanin concentrations, they can vary greatly in appearance from person to person. They also may appear slightly different day to day or under different lighting conditions.

Some examples of the range of hazel eyes:

  • Mostly brown/golden brown with flecks of green around pupils
  • Light brown with a burst of green color around pupils
  • Half green and half golden brown
  • Grayish/blue with green around pupils

In contrast, green eyes typically look more consistent day to day and have a very vivid solid green appearance without other colors mixed in.


Determining if your eye color is green or hazel can require some careful examination. True green eyes are quite rare and have a vivid green appearance without traces of brown or gold. Hazel eyes are more common and have a multifaceted appearance, displaying combinations of brown, green and sometimes gold.

The distribution and concentration of melanin pigments in the iris cause the difference between green and hazel eyes. To identify your eye color, look closely in natural sunlight, use a magnifying mirror, and ask others their opinion. With some thoughtful analysis, you can gain a better understanding of your distinctive eye color.