Grey Eyes: Learn About a Rare, Smokey Eye Color!

grey eyes
Grey eyes are rare

GREY EYES ARE RARE AND MYSTERIOUS 

Hunting for information on grey eyes? Hoping to find out how many people have grey eyes on the planet? According to research, it is estimated that only 3% of the population has grey eyes.

When one considers that an estimated 7 billion people live on planet earth, this means only 210,000,000 million humans have grey as their eye color.

Grey eyes can come in different shades, including hues of smokey blue, green and in some cases, hazel-brown. Much depends on the person, lighting, atmospheric conditions and x-variables.

[Where do green eyes come from?]

Given interest in eye color among readers of this blog, I thought it might be fun to pen a piece that’s all about people with grey eyes.

As a matter of transparency, you should know that I have brown eyes. I’m mentioning this to demonstrate I am not bias in any of the material that follows.

Grey eyes with gold specs
Grey eyes care close to blue

GREY EYES DEFINITION

Trying to define grey eyes is difficult. That’s because all of us experience eye color (in ourselves and others) uniquely.

In the case of smoke colored eyes, the intensity of greyness present depends upon the person. Some women have a blue-grey expression while some men have green-grey.

An individual is said to have grey eyes when the dominate color falls between blue, brown and green, casting off a mystical look that is highly desired.

Over the centuries, many people have attributed the trait of grey eyes to supernatural, empathic abilities. While not grounded in science, it’s fun to think about, particularly if this is your eye color.

grey eyes man
Grey colored eyes are influenced by light

GREY EYES LEARNING OBJECTIVES

This article is designed to offer a comprehensive review of grey eyes. On this page, you will:

  • Learn about grey eyes in people
  • Explore the science of eye color
  • Examine the role of eye color and heredity
  • Explore how eye color can be changed to grey
  • Review the impact of health and grey eyes
  • Assess the influence of other colors on smoky eyes
  • Look at celebrities with grey eyes
  • Survey grey eye myths
  • Determine best makeup options for grey eyes
  • Take an eye color poll
  • Watch videos on eye color

SCIENCE OF GREY EYES

Melanin content in eye color of people with grey, green, amber, hazel, brown, blue, violet and gray 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
BrownSubstantialNormalEumelanin
BlueLightNormalEumelanin
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
GreyLightNormalEumelanin
Heterochromia grey eye and brownish blue eye
Greyish eyes with heterochromia

SCIENCE OF GREY EYES

Where do grey colored eyes come from? That’s a question that’s frequently asked among those who have this smokey hue or see it in others.

Ultimately, eye color is the byproduct of genetics. Your unique eye color is determined by two components: (1) pigmentation of the iris and (2) the specific way light scatters around the globe of the iris itself. Let’s examine both.

The iris’s pigmentation can run the gamut from the darkest blue to the lightest green. Browns and hazels are in the middle. Influencing pigmentation is a substance called melanin; a complex binding agent (polymer) made from tyrosine, an amino acid.

[Learn about dark blue eyes!]

The appearance of grey and shades of grey (i.e. smoke, blue hazel eyes and green hazel) are directly impacted by a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering; a scientific term that describes how light scatters after riding along the wavelength spectrum.

When I was younger, I used to think that I eye color was somehow magically deposited into the iris. Later, I found out that a person’s eyes really are experienced by the way light diffuses and atomizes across the melanin base.

blue eyes light scatter
Credit: Wikicommons

GENETIC ORIGINS OF GREY EYES

There is anthropological evidence to suggest early humans with grey eyes lived around the vast mountain system of Eurasia, nestled between the Black and Caspian Seas. At one time, this swath of land contained a natural land bridge that linked Asia and Europe.

Commonly referred to as the “Silk Route” (aka silk roads), this ancient set of paths was used by early civilizations to barter silk. Historians believe these routes were used between 120 BCE – 1450 CE (Yao, et all, 2000).

The map below provides a good visual of the ancient silk road system.

Silk Route Grey Eyes
The silk route is may be a major reason for the distribution of grey and blue eyes

GREY EYES AND GENETIC ANTHROPOLOGY

Genetic anthropology is an emerging branch of social science that involves DNA testing. Using concrete archaeological, historical and language-based evidence, DNA results are combined with known migratory behaviors of early people to assess behaviors.

As the field continues to grow, scientists learn more and more about the origins of eye color. That’s why today, you can get your own DNA tested through various companies.

After your sample is processed, results are usually sent to you that include ethnic and hereditary factors as part of your family line.

Migratory information is often made available with DNA sampling. When examined in their totality, the results may help to explain your unique eye color.

If you are interested in this, I highly recommend the Ancestry DNA genetic testing kit.

That said, there are specific, scientific reasons for grey eyes.

INFLUENCE OF GENES ON GREY EYES

Old Thinking

Before the year 2008, scientists thought a person’s eye color was mostly determined by one “dominant” gene. Scientists even thought there was an eye color hierarchy. At the bottom rested brown and at the top, blue. Greys and greens were in between.

Under this previous way of thinking, this meant if your father had grey eyes and your mom had brown eyes, you would probably be born with greyish colored eyes.

A parental combo of two grey eyes biologically translated into you having grey eyes. The role of a recessive gene(s) were also thought to somehow influence eye color.

New Thinking

Everything changed after 2008 when a new line of research, published in a 2008 edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics did away with the previous theoretical constructs.

The newly discovered information suggests that 16 genes may influence how color is expressed in the iris.

In everyday language, this means that an infant can be born with almost any eye color, regardless of dominant parental influences. That’s not to say strong hereditary variables aren’t factored into the equation.

The video below offers an excellent overview of eye color, including how genes factor into people having grey, blue, green or brown eyes.

hazel eyes, green eyes, olive eyes, brown blue eyes
Eye Colors

GEOLOGIC TIME AND GREY EYES

Huge parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, plus areas of the middle east, have been homelands to people with grey eyes.

When examining the geologic time scale; a scientific chart that’s used to measure earth’s history, it is thought that grey eyes may have first appeared in people of middle eastern decent sometime during the later parts of the Cenozoic period.

To be even more specific, this would be sometime between the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs, 2 to 3 million years ago.

[Hazel eyes learning page]

It’s important to state that all races, including individuals who are Caucasian, African, Asian, Native Indian, Pacific Islander, Hispanic and the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (pre-Columbians) can have greyish colored eyes.

As mentioned above, scientists believe eye color, like brown, hazel, blue and green were highly influenced by migratory patterns.

Due to inter-mixing of groups, combined with millions of genetic mutations, we see various shades of grey in modern man.

grey eyes geologic time scale
Geologic Time Scale

CAN GREY EYES CHANGE COLOR?

Many people want to know: Can eye color be changed?

The answer is – under some circumstances – yes! People with dark grey, hazel, brown, green or blue eyes all experience change in color from time to time. Causes for these changes include:

  • Mood
  • How light scatters
  • Medical reasons
Grey eyes in a man
Grey eyes in a bearded man

LIGHT SCATTERING AND GREY EYES

If you have smokey eyes, it’s not because mother nature deposited that color into your iris with a dropper. Factually, your eye pigmentation contains tiny specs of brown in them.

Due to the phenomenon of Rayleigh scattering, the color of your eye will reflect back a unique hue.

GREY EYES AND MOOD

Believe it or not, your eye color can be influenced by your mood. Specifically, I’m talking about your emotional state. This makes sense when you this about emotional states.

For example, if you are upset because something bad happened, you may cry. This will cause your pupils to dilate and the whites of your eyes to either widen or contract. In turn, more of your natural color will be present when viewed by others.

[Learn about dark amber eyes!]

If you have grey eyes, sadness may make your color turn temporarily blue – as intense blue. It just depends on dilation and lighting.

GREY EYES, COLOR AND HEALTH

If your eyes are grey, you are more vulnerable to our sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Essentially, grey eyed individuals can experience the onset of certain ocular cancers, like intraocular melanoma. Eye care specialists recommend light eyed people wear UV protective, polarized sunglasses when exposed to the sun.

grey blue eye close up
Do you see grey or blue in this eye color?

GREY EYES AND LIGHT’S INFLUENCE

Expanding upon the previous material on Rayleigh scattering, it’s important to know how light scatters across the melanin plain and its influence on color expression.

If you have grey eyes, this is why some people may tell you that your color “looks blue” or “steel” or “silver”. It’s all very subjective.

Major influences on eye color also include:

  • Seasonal allergies: If your allergies become activated in fall or spring, resulting in “scratchy eyes”, it can cause the surrounding “whites” of your eyes to appear reddish (bloodshot). Some people’s eyes become super puffy, with large bags that take away from their natural beauty.

[How to get rid of dark circles under eyes]

  • Type of lighting: Artificial lights (light bulbs) can influence how others experience your eye color. The brightness of light reflecting from your iris will either increase or soften your iris’s appearance.
  • Morning vs. Afternoon: The sun’s light may be more intense in the morning, which means your iris will “pick-up” different intensities from the solar spectrum. Later in the afternoon, the intensity reflected back from the spectrum is less.
  • Eye Shadow: Some women wear eye shadow, like matt browns and warm coffee colors, to accentuate the natural grey of the iris. This can cause the desired effect of having mysterious eyes. Eye shadow, when properly applied, can also make blue eyes appear steel or hazel eyes.Consult a beauty expert for more information.
  • Other Colors: The brightness and intensity of grey eyes can be influenced by other colors. For example, browns and purples help to amplify grey. Black and blue take away from grey’s intensity. That’s why clothing choices are important for people with smoke colored eyes.
  • Alcohol and/or Drugs: If you drink alcohol or take certain medications, it can cause your eye color to temporarily change. This is also true of illicit drugs, such as crystal meth, cocaine, MDMA or opioids. The change is mostly due to pupil dilation and vasoconstrictor effects.

WARNING ABOUT SUDDEN CHANGES IN COLOR

Should the color of your eyes suddenly change or if you become aware that your pupils have remained dilated for an extended period of time, call your doctor immediately. There may be a medical reason that needs urgent attention.

Alex Pettyfer grey bluue eyes
Alex Pettyfer has grey eyes &  shades of blue

CELEBRITIES WITH GREY EYES

Smokey, grey eyes are rare. That said, there are a number of famous people who have them. Admittingly, some of the people I’ve listed below could technically fall into the blue eye category.

Again, it’s all about lighting and the other factors mentioned above that influence color perception.

FYI: A few of these people are no longer with us.

  • Wentworth Miller
  • Mitch Hewer
  • Alex Pettyfer
  • Megan Fox
  • Andreea Diacon
  • Milla Jovovich
  • Anna Arendshorst
  • Josh Henderson (one eye is grey)
  • Davie Bowie
  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers
  • Henry Cavill
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Simon Pegg
Instagram model Deiviz Nora has grey eyes

MYTHS ABOUT GREY EYES

There are more myths about grey eyes than I can shake a stick at. Many can be traced back to the ancients with an eye on Greek Mythology.

For example, Perseus from the story of Medusa is said to have had grey eyes.

There is no way I can list all of the myths here. What I’ve tried to do is include the biggies.

  • Grey eyed people are better in bed
  • People with grey eyes are mind readers
  • Pisces people with grey eyes are dangerous
  • Men with grey eyes are sexually gifted
  • Women with grey eyes are charming
  • Grey eyed people are smarter than green eyed people
  • If you have grey eyes, you are psychic
  • People with grey eyes are more spontaneous
  • Guys with grey blue eyes have larger anatomy
  • Women with steel blue eyes are sexually dominant
  • Grey eyed people are just weird

GREY EYES POLL

The poll below is designed to assess what you think about eye color. It’s not scientific and shouldn’t be used as proof of what the general population believes.

Still, the results may offer a window of insight into how others feel about eye color.

DID GREY EYES COME FROM ALIENS?

As silly as it may seem, some people believe that eye color is partially due to aliens from another galaxy depositing their genetic material into early man.

This is highly unlikely. What is possible, however, is that material from outer space that helped to shape our planet hominid adaptation.

Superman (Clark Kent) mythically came from the planet Krypton. He has steel blue, greyish eyes. Perhaps he’s responsible.

SUMMING GREY EYES UP

With each new day, scientists are learning more about the origin of eye color. One thing is for sure, grey eyes are extremely rare. They also happen to be beautiful to look at.

Some people get so carried away with eye color that they undergo dangerous medical procedures, like the one featured on this ABC story.

If you want to change your eye color to grey, it’s probably best to visit your optometrist and explore contact options.

Finally, see the product recommendations below via Amazon on eye related products that are designed to produce smokey eyes.

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References:

Yao, Yong-Gang et al. “Gene Admixture In The Silk Road Region Of China: Evidence From Mtdna And Melanocortin 1 Receptor Polymorphism.”. Genes & Genetic Systems 75.4 (2000): 173-178. Web.

 

About John D. Moore 135 Articles

Dr. John Moore is a counselor and educator. He writes about people, places and things as a pathway to knowledge. Moore coaches, teaches and helps workplaces to do the people part better. Click on: BIO to learn more. Be sure to follow Guy Counseling on Facebook

2 Comments

  1. if there’s about 2 percent of redheads in the world and 3 percent of grey eyes. Does that mean I’m in the 1 percent that has both. My eyes are like a russian blue cat, dark grey with a dull blue tint and hazel heterachromia

  2. I have reddish hair and recently learned my eyes are gray, not blue like my birth certificate says. I thought they were some weird dark, tealy, unexplainable color. Now I know they’re grAy 🙂 yippee

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