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Why Your Iris Is The Color That It is?

Updated on March 11, 2013

The Iris

In modern society, people have the technology to alter their body in ways that can even transcend the consequences of aging. From liposuction and breast enhancements to dyeing one's hair a different color, the modern world has given birth to many ways that people can physically change how they look.

But the closest people have come to changing eye color is colored contacts, which is not really changing the color of their eyes, but only masking it. People have no direct control over the color of the eye, but, there are many involuntary factors that can alter the irises of people.

Burt Dubow

Eye color often is the genetic trait that fascinates parents the most as a child develops"

Different eye colors
Different eye colors

Factors that Affect Eye Color

1. Light: which enters the eye through the retina and is received by cones, which sends stimuli through the optic nerves to produce the image seen before them.

Why does light affect eye color?

I could childishly say that without visible light to reflect off of objects, color would not be visible to us. But I'm sure you already know that.

Honestly, when I mentioned light I was referring to its effect on two pigments---melanin and lipochrome

Melanin is a dark pigment synthesized by cells, called melanocytes, to protect the skin and eyes from the ultraviolet rays emitted by light. "As the eye is exposed to sunlight, the melanocytes within the iris begin to produce melanin pigment and the eye color slowly begins to change towards its adult coloring, reaching at least 50% of adult melanin density by age one and complete pigmentation by age 3", according to Burt Dubow. However, it doesn't stop there.

People are exposed to ultraviolet rays every day, from the suns rays to artificial lights. This gradually darkens the eye. The amount of melanin and lipochrome present in one's iris is determined by their genes; however the amount of melanin naturally increases with age due to long-term exposure to light.

Note: This does not affect people with albinism, because they lack any amount of both pigments. This is why they tend to have pale skin, white hair, and pinkish eyes, which comes from the blood vessels. Naturally, this results in cataracts and melanoma because of their inability to block ultraviolet ray damage.

2. Free radicals: unstable oxygen molecules that result as a by-product of normal metabolic and chemical reactions. The electron band orbiting the nucleus is incomplete, because oxygen molecules have weak bonds that break easily. Usually, free radicals attack the nearest stable molecule, essentially stealing its electron.

Seeking molecular stability does not sound too dangerous, until the consequences are noted. In the human body, free radicals in small amounts are necessary for chemical reactions. But in large amounts, they can destroy cells and even alter DNA.

The environment can cause free radicals through:

  1. pollution
  2. radiation
  3. cigarette smoke
  4. herbicides
  5. pesticides

Free radical damage increases with age, which can correlate with a change in eye color later in life. They can cause macular degeneration, cataracts, and, by altering DNA, changes in the amount of melanin produced in the eyes; a section of the iris might change.

3.Genetics This one is obvioius. But I'll delve further into it by displaying a of list certain diseases/conditions that can affect eye color.

  1. Heterochromia:
  2. having two different colored eyes. It is rare in humans, but common among dogs, cats, and horses. Most often it is hereditary, but it can be caused by
  3. Horner Syndrome
  4. and
  5. FHU
  6. .
  7. Pigmentary Glacucoma:
  8. The breakup of pigment molecules in the back of the iris that interferes with the eyes natural drainage system.
  9. Parry-Romberg syndrome:
  10. Progressive deteoriation of skin and pigmentation cells.

A list of reference material is at the bottom of this page.

Dandelion-superior source of lutein.
Dandelion-superior source of lutein.

"We" Cannot Change Eye Color or Can We?

Scientists used to firmly believe that we had no control over the color of our own iris. But there is a growing increase in the number of opthamologists who do believe we may be capable of such feats.

Some scientists believe there is a link between hormones and eye color. They believe hormones may influence a gradual change in eye color.

Therefore, people who supplement with hormones:

  1. Testosterone
  2. Progestrone
  3. DHEA
  4. HCG

may inadvertently alter their hormonal balance in a way that can alter their eye color. However, they lack scientific tests or even evidence that this might be possible. So it would be what scientists call a "wild theory" and would be dismissed.

Another belief, that is gradually gaining enough interest and worth to test, is the assumption that lutein may lighten eyes.

Lutein is an antioxidant (free radical destroyer), as well as a carotenoid (class of compounds that benefit the eye).

These people believe that by increasing lutein consumption they can increase the amount of lipochrome (the yellowish pigment taken from xanthophylls, like lutein) available in their cornea and therefore lighten eye color.

This belief is credible, because increased carotene (a carotenoid used in melanin) consumption results in a bright-orangish tint in the skin. Therefore lutein may have a similar effect with eye color. Of course, if such a change were possible, lutein would have to be consumed in radically high amounts.

However ophthalmologists have not begun testing or have chosen not to post their results on this subject.

And without tests to support it, it is just a theory."

Even Famous Actresses have Heterochromia

Even Famous Actresses have Heterochromia
Even Famous Actresses have Heterochromia

Tips and Supplements On Maintaining Eye Health

High Antioxidant intake: can reduce or cease the effects of free radicals in the body. These free radicals can signficantly contribute to a host of conditions including ocular melanoma(cancer), cataracts, macular degeneration, and more.

Consume organic(pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides create more free radicals) foods like:

  1. avocados
  2. blueberries
  3. blackberries
  4. currants
  5. gojiberries
  6. raspeberries
  7. cocoa
  8. pomegranate
  9. walnuts
  10. pecans
  11. spices(ginger, cloves, cayenne, sumac, tumeric, paprika, tarragon)

You can also supplement with high antioxidant supplements such as

  1. Green powders
  2. COenzyme 10 (the component that literally drives the cellular process of producing ATP)
  3. Pychnogenol (an extract from Pine Bark)
  4. Resveratrol (Potent antioxidant found in grapes; think red wine but more than10x as potent)
  5. L-Carnosine (an amino acid)
  6. L-Glutathione (an molecule made up of 3 amino acids)
  7. Bilberry (not much of an antioxidant but great for eye health)

Consume Carotenoid-rich foods: which are praised for their eye-benefitting and antioxidant properties.

Vitamin A comes in two forms. Retinol palmitate and Beta carotene. Retinol palmitate is the most common form because it is considered true Vitamin A, while Beta Carotene has Pro-Vitamin A activity. But Beta carotene is superior in many ways.

1.Beta Carotene does not cause toxicity, like Retinol Palmitate. It's fat soluble and is released into the bloodstream as needed.

2.It is part of the Carotenoid family, a class of over 500 nutrients that have antioxidant activity. Most of which are beneficial for eye health.

Note:Only four have Pro-Vitamin A activity( Alpha Carotene, Beta Carotene, Gamma Carotene, and Cryptoxanthin).

List of Beta-Carotene rich foods to consume:

  1. oranges
  2. goji berries
  3. grapefruit
  4. pumpkin
  5. butternut squash
  6. sweet potato
  7. hubbard squash
  8. kale
  9. swiss chard
  10. red cabbage
  11. red leaf lettuce
  12. red/orange bell peppers

List of foods rich in other carotenoids(Lutein, Lycopene, Astaxanthin, Neoxanthin, Zeaxanthin)

  1. Yellow/Red/Purple carrots
  2. Golden Beets
  3. Dandelion
  4. Green Peas
  5. Corn
  6. Tomatoes
  7. Papaya
  8. Egg yolks
  9. Oranges
  10. Dark Green Leafy Veggies(Turnip Greens, Collard, Spinach, Kale)

Garden of Life Antioxidant - Vitamin Code Raw Whole Food Vitamin Supplement with Probiotic and Enzyme Blend, Vegan, 30 Capsules
Garden of Life Antioxidant - Vitamin Code Raw Whole Food Vitamin Supplement with Probiotic and Enzyme Blend, Vegan, 30 Capsules

Raw Antioxidant Formula contains VItamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, Glutathione, Zinc, Superoxide Dismutase.

No, this is not a real eye color. :)
No, this is not a real eye color. :)

What Color Are Your Eyes

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Any Comments?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I have Brown, yellow, light green then dark green somewhat like Beyoncés eyes if you will

    • Sunwarrior profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @espio007: Very interesting. I wasn't aware of the that hazel had even more variations than those I listed.

    • espio007 profile image


      5 years ago

      Interesting lens, I put my eye colour as hazel brown/blue but they are mainly blue and the hazelling is more like a mustard yellow than brown.

    • espio007 profile image


      5 years ago

      Interesting lens, I put my eye colour as hazel brown/blue but they are mainly blue and the hazelling is more like a mustard yellow than brown.

    • Sunwarrior profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @CatCave: thank you

    • CatCave profile image


      5 years ago

      What a fascinating lens. Kate Bosworth's eyes are gorgeous x


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