Brown eyes have a larger amount of melanin, the pigment that creates eye color. The more melanin, the deeper the color.
As brown is the most common eye color around the world, it is not surprising that 41 percent of people in the United States have brown eyes.
Brown eyes come with benefits. If you have brown eyes, you have a lower risk of developing macular degeneration and eye cancer. Also, you may be less susceptible to noise-related environmental issues than people with blue eyes.
What Causes Brown Eyes?
Eye color is determined by genetics.
Complex gene interactions determine the amount of pigment you have. When you have a larger amount of melanin, your eyes are a deeper shade of brown.
The old myth about genetics is that a single gene was responsible for eye color. Under this myth, it was believed that two blue-eyed parents couldn’t give birth to a brown-eyed child.
However, it turns out that there could be as many as 16 genes that determine eye color. This explains why two blue-eyed parents can have a brown-eyed baby.
How Common Are Brown Eyes?
Studies show that around the world, 79 percent of people have brown eyes. This makes brown eyes the most common color, although the term brown is often used to describe a wide variety of colors ranging from very light to very dark.
Different Shades of Brown Eyes
Brown eyes come in a wide variety of shades. Lighter shades are often seen in the United States and Europe. Deeper shades from caramel-brown to dark brown are more frequently seen in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Hazel and brown are often put together as a single category. Hazel eyes are a combination of brown and green, often with flecks or spots of each color. The range of color is wide, from light sand to deep chocolate.
Benefits of Brown Eyes
Brown eyes may provide greater protection against certain eye diseases. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, this may be due to the higher levels of melanin. People with brown eyes tend to be at lower risk for eye cancer, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
An additional benefit of brown eyes is that the higher melanin levels may protect the brain’s nerves from damage due to noise. If you have brown eyes, you may be less likely to experience damage from environmental noise.
Disadvantages of Brown Eyes
Brown eyes seem to put people at a higher risk for developing cataracts.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, one Australian study showed that the risk of cataracts may be twice as high for people with brown eyes compared to people with different eye colors. The exact reasons for this difference have not been determined as of yet.
What if You Want a Different Eye Color?
According to a poll by 1-800 Contacts, 26.2 percent of brown-eyed respondents wished to have a different eye color. Hazel-eyed respondents also wished for another eye color, at 17.1 percent.
If you’re dreaming of different eye colors, you might like to explore colored contacts. This is a quick and effective way to express your unique style. Colored lenses can give people a brighter, fresher, or more dramatic look.
For a natural look, try colored lenses in a lighter brown or hazel color. For a more dramatic impact, check out vivid colors such as blues, violets, and greens.
How Do Brown Eyes Get Their Color?
There are dozens of genes for eye color that contribute to how people get brown eyes. The amount of melanin, a pigment, in the iris determines eye color.
If you have a larger amount of melanin, your eyes appear brown. If you have little or no melanin, your eyes appear blue, green, or gray.
Cells containing melanin pigment are called melanocytes. All human eyes contain the same number of these cells.
However, the color variations are due to different amounts of pigment, distribution, and types of pigment. This explains the wide variation of shades within brown, dark brown, light brown, and hazel.
Interesting Studies About Brown Eyes
Various studies have revealed certain associations between brown eyes and other traits or features.
A University of Pittsburgh study investigated the link between pain tolerance and eye color. The study found that healthy, pregnant women with blue or green eyes showed a higher tolerance for pain than women with brown or hazel eyes.
Research studies are investigating the role of melanin in the brain and its link to eye color.
One study found that brown-eyed individuals (with higher amounts of melanin) feel the effects of alcohol faster. Blue-eyed individuals, with little or no melanin, are likely to drink more alcohol because they don’t feel the effects as quickly.
Trustworthy Facial Features
A 2013 Czech study popularized the notion that brown-eyed people are more trustworthy. Although the concept has stuck, it turns out that there’s a little more complexity to it.
Facial features that are typically associated with brown eyes are perceived as more trustworthy. These may include faces that have a rounder chin, a broader mouth, relatively bigger eyes, and eyebrows that are close to each other.
The association between trustworthiness and brown eyes seems to persist.
Why Are Brown Eyes Most Common? American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The World’s Population By Eye Color. World Atlas.
What Is Ocular Melanoma? American Academy of Ophthalmology.
What Is Macular Degeneration? American Academy of Ophthalmology.
In the Eye of the Beholder. 1-800 Contacts.
Genotype-Phenotype Associations and Human Eye Color. (December 2010). Journal of Human Genetics.
The Science Behind Eye Color. Facty.
Can Eye Color Predict Pain Tolerance? University of Pittsburgh.
What Your Eye Color Says About Your Alcohol and Pain Tolerance. (February 2019). Arizona Retina Project.
Trustworthy-Looking Face Meets Brown Eyes. (August 2013). PLOS ONE.
Are ‘Trustworthy’ Faces More Attractive? (August 2020). Psychology Today.
Eye Color Genetics Not So Simple, Study Finds. (March 2021). ScienceDaily.
The DNA of Eye Color. (April 2011). Kettering University.
Last Updated July 20, 2022
Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.