Learn About The Origins of Brown Eyes

brown eyes man - taylor lautner
Brown eyes of Taylor Lautner

Brown eyes are more special than you think

Brown eyes are beautiful to look at. They are also very unique. While the research is somewhat scattered, current estimates suggest that around 65% of all humans have brown eyes.

When you consider that our global population is over seven billion in number, this means that most of the people roaming the planet have brown eyes. Bear in mind that not all shades of brown are the same.

That’s the purpose of this article – to tell you all about brown eyes. I also want to help you understand the color you see reflecting in the mirror may be a lot more special than you think.

Brown Eyes: A Primer

This article will explore everything you ever wanted to know about brown eyes. We will examine how you got your eye color, assess how eye color can be changed and review several male celebrities that have brown eyes.

As part of this post, we will also look at common brown eye myths. Other material will be covered; like different shades of brown that include hazel and gold.

Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!

brown eyes man
Man with brown eyes


dark brown eyes
Dark brownish eyes

Science behind brown eyes

If you have brown eyes, you probably want to know how you got them. Basically, eye color is a function genetics and is determined by two factors: (1) The pigmentation of the iris and (2) the scattering of light itself upon the eye’s base.

Let’s examine both.

Pigmentation of your iris works like a tower. On the bottom, you can the darkest colors, like deep brown and black. At the tower’s top, you lighter colors, ranging from emerald green to crystal blue.

A big part of how you get pigmentation relates to a substance known as melanin; a complex polymer made from the amino acid tyrosine.

The reason you see different shades of brown (i.e. caramel, chocolate, hazel-brown and gold) is because of a natural phenomenon known as Rayleigh scattering; a term used to describe how light scatters after riding the light spectrum wavelength.

Related: Learn about people with hazel eyes

A lot of people think eye color, like brown and blue, are part of the iris. In truth, they are not. Your eye color at any given point in time is the result of how the melanin base diffuses across the spectrum.

Much of this genetically determined.

Science of Amber Eyes in People

Melanin content in eye color of people with amber, hazel, brown, blue, violet and grey and black eyes
Eye ColorMelanin Amount: Front Layer of IrisMelanin Amount: Back Layer of IrisDominant Pigmentation
HazelMedium: Less than green. More than brownNormalEumelanin and Pheomelanin
GreenCloser to blue; less than brownNormalPheomelanin
GreyLess than green and hazelNormalEumelanin mix
Violet/PurpleSmall to noneSmall to littleUnknown
BlackHeavyHeavyBlack Eumelanin
AmberLess than brownLightEumelanin and Pheomelanin
nick jonas has brown eyes
Nick Jonas has deep brown eyes

Brown Eyes and Genes

Old Thinking

For decades, researchers thought eye color was determined by one dominant gene. Under this line of thinking, it was believed that the offspring (children) inherit their father’s eyes.

Translation: If your father had brownish eyes and your mother had blue eyes, you would likely be born with some variation of brown.

And if your parents both had green eyes, that would be a strong indicator that you would have green eyes too.

Some scientists believed that a recessive gene also influenced eye color.

Eyes can be the window to the soul

New Thinking

We’ve made great strides in improving our understanding of eye color in recent years. Back in 2008, a paper appeared in the American Journal of Human Genetics that did away with much of what we thought we knew about eye color.

According to the new research, it is believed that as many as 16 different genes may affect the way color is expressed in the iris.

What does all of this mean? Well, a non-scientific translation means that a baby can technically be born with any eye color, regardless of the biological infant’s parent’s color shade.

That’s not to say that heredity doesn’t play a role because it does.

Brown eyes have been part of the human race since man first walked the earth some six million years ago (modern humans only evolved around 200,000 years ago).

If you are from southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia, there is a higher likelihood of brown eyes running in your family. It’s important to remember that any race can have brown eyes.

blue eyes light scatter
Credit: Wikicommons

Can brown eyes change color?

A lot of folks say their eye color can change. That’s not a false claim – well, at least for some. People with brown, green and blue colored eyes can indeed change from time to time.

Causes of eye color changes include:

  • How light scatters across the melanin base
  • Your mood
  • Health factors

Health reasons brown eyes can change color

Did you know the color of your eyes can permanently change? It’s true and that most often happens because of a health/medical reason. For example, if you suffer from glaucoma and take certain medications, your eye color changes can technically happen.

FYI: If you have light colored brown eyes and hope to keep them, make sure you work closely with your doctor if you take medications for glaucoma.

There are other medical conditions that can cause your eye color to change. Examples include Fuch’s heterochromic iridocyclitis and Horner’s syndrome.

Contact your optometrist or medical doctor immediately if you ever notice a sudden change in the color of eyes.

Brody Jenner has brown eyes

Brown eyes and health risks

The good news about having brown eyes is that you are less likely to suffer from the effects of the sun’s harmful radiation. Generally speaking, people with higher concentrations of melanin are less likely to develop certain types of skin cancer.

Note: This does not mean you are immune from sun damage or cancer-causing radiation.

If you have hazel colored eyes (light brown, hazel green) you are at a higher risk of developing certain types of ocular cancers, such as intraocular melanoma. This is why people with light brown eyes should wear sunconglasses with UV protection when outdoors.

Speaking of glasses, doesn’t Gio Benitez with ABC News look great – flashing his brown eyes?

Gio Benitez with ABC News has brown eyes
Gio Benitez with ABC News has brown eyes

Brown eyes and honesty

Did you know that people with brown eyes are thought to be more honest that those with blue or green eyes? It’s true. According to a scientific study extensively discussed in Scientific American, that’s what people think.

“Brown-eyed individuals tend to be perceived as more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones,” explain the authors. “But it is not brown eyes that cause this perception. It is the facial morphology linked to brown eyes.”

brown eyes of ryan reynolds
Ryan Reynolds has brown eyes

Changes in eye color because of light

Applying the previously mentioned scientific phenomenon of Rayleigh scattering, changes in eye color can happen as light particles fan across the iris.

The end result can mean a person’s eye color can change from deep brown to hazel to gold!

Other factors influencing the shade of brown in the eyes include:

  • Time of day: Depending upon the sun’s intensity, light may reflect in a way that changes the hue of your iris. 
  • Lighting: Faux lighting (artificial lighting) can impact the shade of your brown eyes. If you are in dark light, your brown will appear darker. In bright light, the color will appear lighter. 
  • Clothing and reflective colors: The clothes you have on can impact how other people experience your eye color. Certain hues, like deep blues and greens, can influence the intensity of your brown. 
  • Makeup and bronzers: If you wear eye makeup, like brown and gold eye shadow, your eye color can appear brighter to onlookers. Some people take on a chameleon look. 
  • Substances: Eye color can change if you are using certain substances, including alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, uppers and downers. In many cases, the hue of your eye will appear brighter and glossier. 
  • Emotions: Your mood can affect how others perceive your eye color. If you are feeling sad, your eyes may appear darker because your pupil is dilating. If you are happy, the brightness of your color may become intensified because your pupil widens. 
  • Seasons: In winter, your eye color may appear darker. In summer, your, brighter. The reasons relate to how the sun’s spectrum penetrates the ozone.


If your eye color suddenly changes or if your pupil becomes dilated for an extended period of time, contact your doctor immediately. Remember, you only get one pair of eyes.

Brown Eyes and Makeup Video

Brown eyes can be accentuated by applying makeup properly. Certain shades are known to help my the darkness or lightness in your eye color “pop”. Be sure to watch the video and gain new insight.

Curious about which eye shadows work best for brown eyes? Have a girlfriend with brown eyes and want to get her a gift? Check out these amazing eye makeup shades from Bobbi Brown! See Amazon.

Male celebrities with brown eyes

There are many celebrities with brown eyes. In fact, there are so many, there is no way they can all be listed on this one page. Keep in mind that the celebs featured below have different hues of brown.

How they are expressed and perceived is very much linked to the previously mentioned factors. Heres’s a great picture on actor Ryan Guzman’s brown eyes.

Aren’t they cool?

Let’s check some more male stars and their different shades of brown.

  • Taylor Lautner
  • Josh Hutcherson
  • Gio Benitez
  • Colin Farrell
  • Ryan Guzman
  • James Franco
  • Brody Jenner
  • Dave Franco
  • Ashton Kutcher
  • Ryan Reynolds (see Ryan Reynolds post)
  • Will Smith
  • Zachary Quinto
  • Johnny Depp
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Joey Lawrence
  • Keanu Reeves

Myths about brown eyes

Brown eyes are amazing to look into. Because of this, it makes sense that a number of myths exist about people who have this color.

Bear in mind that there are more myths about people with brown eyes than the ones listed below! Here are some popular ones.

  • Brown eyed people are less attractive
  • Brown eyed men are more emotional
  • Brown eyed guys are better in bed
  • Brown eyed people are more connected to the earth
  • Brown eyed people live longer lives
  • Brown eyed people are more empathic
  • Brown eyed people gain weight easier
  • Brown eyed people are part African

Brown Eyes Poll

This poll is designed to assess what you think about eye color. It is not scientific and should only be used for entertainment purposes only. If you don’t see the poll below, use this link:

Still, the results may offer you some insight into what other people think about different colored eyes. Don’t let whatever result you see activate existing self-image issues.


amber eyes male
Brown and amber make for a unique color

Do brown eyes come from aliens?

According to some urban myths, eye color is determined by supernatural forces, such as your chosen animal spirit, Other people think that eye color, like Amber,  is the direct result of alien forces.

You may be wondering what aliens have to do with eye color? As the myth goes, invaders from another galaxy deposited their genetic material into the early primate genome.

When you look at the eye color of most species on the planet, notice that the vast majority have a darker, “browner” color.

Nobody really knows.

Brown eyes: Final thoughts

We are still learning a great deal about eye color. New research is being conducted each day. Believe it or not, you can “change” the color of your eyes with contacts.

It’s even possible to undergo a medical procedure to change your brown eyes to blue – although this is not advised.

About MJ Duff 44 Articles
Marie-Jones Duff is a Los Angeles based freelance multimedia journalist and frequent traveler with a fondness for all things bizarre and nerdy. Look for posts that focus on everything from men's fashion to science.