Skip to Content

What is ice blue eyes?

What is ice blue eyes?

Ice blue eyes are a very light blue eye color that can appear almost icy or grayish in certain lighting. They are caused by low melanin levels in the iris, allowing more light to scatter and reflect back. Ice blue eyes are quite rare globally but more common in certain parts of Europe. Here we’ll explore what causes ice blue eyes, how common they are, and some key facts about people with this unique eye color.

What Causes Ice Blue Eyes?

Eye color is determined by the amount and type of melanin pigment in the iris. People with ice blue eyes have very low levels of melanin in their irises. This allows more light to penetrate and scatter through the iris, producing a very light blue color.

There are two types of melanin that contribute to eye color:


This is a brown/black melanin. More eumelanin results in brown or darker eyes. People with blue eyes have very little eumelanin.


This is a red/yellow melanin. More pheomelanin results in green, hazel, amber, or light brown eyes. People with ice blue eyes tend to have low levels of both eumelanin and pheomelanin.

The specific genetics behind blue eyes are still being researched, but it’s believed that they involve:

– Low expression of the OCA2 gene – This helps determine melanin production.

– Variations in the HERC2 gene – This regulates OCA2 expression.

Certain HERC2 variants are strongly associated with blue eyes. When OCA2 is not expressed at high levels, little melanin pigment develops in the iris.

How Rare Are Ice Blue Eyes?

True ice blue eyes are quite uncommon globally. Here are some estimates on their rarity:

Region Prevalence of Ice Blue Eyes
Worldwide Less than 1% of people
United States About 1% of people
Northern Europe 1-2% of people
Finland Approximately 8% of people

As you can see, ice blue eyes are very rare globally. They occur more frequently in northern European countries like Finland, Norway, and Sweden. But even there, only a small percentage of the population has them.

What Are Common Traits of People With Ice Blue Eyes?

Aside from having striking light blue eyes, what are some other traits often seen in people with ice blue eyes? Here are a few:

– Very fair or pale skin. With little melanin in the irises, these individuals often have low melanin levels overall.

– Blonde or red hair. For the same reasons as above, light hair colors are common. However, some with dark blond or light brown hair can also have ice blue eyes.

– Northern European ancestry. Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and northern Germanic roots are most associated with ice blue eyes.

– Sensitivity to sunlight. The lack of protective melanin makes some people with light eyes more prone to sun damage. Extra care is needed in bright sunlight.

– Vision problems. While unrelated to eye color itself, conditions like myopia (nearsightedness) occur more often in people of Northern European descent.

Are Ice Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light?

It’s sometimes claimed that people with light eyes are more sensitive to sunlight and artificial lights. Is this really true for those with ice blue eyes? The evidence is mixed:

Study Findings
Laeng et al. (2007) People with blue eyes showed more pupillary light reflex sensitivity
Vanagaite et al. (1997) No difference in light sensitivity between eye colors
Zvansky (2003) Blue-eyed participants performed worse under glare conditions

While some studies have found greater light sensitivity in those with lighter eyes, others show no difference. More research is still needed in this area. The pupil reflex seems to be more sensitive, but subjective discomfort in bright light is unclear.

In any case, people with ice blue eyes should take reasonable precautions like wearing sunglasses in very bright conditions. But there’s no evidence they need to take extra precautions under normal indoor lighting.

Do People With Blue Eyes See Differently?

Aside from possible light sensitivity differences, do people with light blue or ice blue eyes actually see differently?

Here are some key facts:

– There are no sharpness differences. Ice blue eyes do not have worse vision compared to darker eyes. Visual acuity is unrelated to eye color.

– Color perception is likely the same. The melanin in the iris doesn’t affect the retina’s color sensing ability.

– Ice blue eyes may struggle more with glare. Some evidence suggests those with lighter eyes perform worse on visual tasks under bright glare. But the reason is unclear.

– Contrast sensitivity may be slightly better. One study found that those with lighter pigmentation may have slightly better contrast visual ability.

So while ice blue eyes do not cause major differences in vision, they may be a little more easily affected by glare. But this doesn’t impact visual abilities under normal conditions.

Are Blue Eyes Becoming More Rare?

Some wonder if blue eyes are becoming rarer due to lower evolutionary fitness and the mixing of populations. But current evidence suggests blue eyes are not disappearing:

– One study found no decline in the percentage of blue-eyed Americans over the past century.

– Blue eyes remain common in northern European countries where they traditionally appeared.

– Global travel and migration could modestly increase blue eyes outside of northern Europe over generations.

– While the genetics are complex, blue eyes will likely persist for many generations into the future.

So despite the myth, current data shows no major decline in the prevalence of blue eyes either in countries where they originate or worldwide. The icy blue eye color will likely remain a unique trait among a small percentage of the global population.

What Is the Evolutionary Origin of Blue Eyes?

The appearance of blue eyes in humans is linked to the genetic mutation that created the light skin seen in northern Europeans. This mutation likely arose 6,000-10,000 years ago as an adaptation to low sunlight levels.

Having lighter skin and blue eyes would have helped these humans:

– Allow more sunlight into the body to produce essential vitamin D.

– Prevent damage from absorbing too much UV light.

So in low sunlight conditions, blue eyes and light skin were more evolutionarily fit. This caused these traits to be selected for in northern European populations.

The icy blue variant arose as selection for lighter eyes targeted genes controlling melanin levels in the iris. With time, this produced a small subset of humans with the striking ice blue eye phenotype.

What Impact Did the Founder Effect Have?

While the light skin and eye color mutation arose only once in ancient humans, the founder effect also contributed to ice blue eyes spreading:

– Founder effect – When a small group splits off from a larger population to found a new community, they only carry a subset of the original group’s genes.

– As groups migrated across northern Europe after the ice age, random founder effects magnified the prevalence of mutations for light eyes/skin in some populations more than others.

For example, if a small tribe migrating to Scandinavia happened to carry more copies of the light eye mutations, there would be strong selection for these genes as the population expanded. This enhanced the frequency of blue/light eyes in ancient Scandinavian tribes.

So while the light eye mutation occurred once, founder effect events multiplied the impact as humans migrated across Europe. This helped make ice blue eyes more common in regions like Finland and Sweden.

Famous People With Ice Blue Eyes

While still rare overall, ice blue eyes are a memorable trait among celebrities and public figures. Here are a few famous people with notable ice blue eye color:

Person Profession
Christina Hendricks Actress
Amanda Seyfried Actress, Model
Ian Somerhalder Actor
Liam Hemsworth Actor
Norman Reedus Actor
Elizabeth Taylor Actress
Cillian Murphy Actor

These celebrities showcase some of the most icy, light blue eyed looks and have heightened public fascination with the trait. They prove that ice blue eyes can be distinctly stunning.


Ice blue eyes stand out as a rare and beautiful eye color. They are caused by low melanin in the iris, allowing more light to scatter and produce a pale blue hue. While more common in northern Europe, true ice blue eyes only appear in 1-2% of the population from those regions.

There are some possible slight differences in light sensitivity and glare perceptions between ice blue and darker eyes. But overall vision is unaffected outside of potential sun glare challenges. Ice blue eyes remain a consistent if uncommon trait passed down over generations. So while standout in appearance, ice blue eyes do not indicate any major functional variations from other eye hues. Their uniqueness stems from the magical color itself.