Unbelievable as it may seem, the answer is yes—natural purple eyes do exist. Purple eyes are also commonly referred to as “violet eyes,” as they are typically a light shade.
For most people, this striking eye color can only be achieved with the help of colored contacts. But the fact is that a small (albeit very small) percentage of people are indeed born with purple eyes.
Curious to learn more about this fascinating eye color? Get yourself comfy and read on.
What Causes Purple Eyes?
For any eye color, the cause boils down to melanin levels and genetics. But a natural violet eye color usually has an additional cause behind it: albinism.
Melanin and Genetics
Melanin is a brown-colored pigment that impacts our skin, hair, and eye color. The amount of melanin present in the iris determines its color, and genes determine the amount of melanin you have. The more melanin, the darker the eye color.
So, how are there eye colors other than shades of brown? Put simply, the amount of melanin in the eye affects how much light enters the eye and gets reflected back out.
People with paler colored eyes, like blue or violet, have less melanin in the iris. That means more light gets reflected back out, which makes the eye appear paler to an observer than if it had an abundance of melanin.
Albinism is a genetic condition that causes a reduced amount of melanin in a person’s body. It often includes reduced melanin in the eyes. With very low melanin levels in the eye, the iris might appear blue or, in some instances, red or violet.
A common misconception is that all people with albinism have red-colored eyes, but according to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, most people with albinism have blue eyes, and some even have hazel or brown eyes.
Studies have explained that when there’s a complete lack of melanin, eyes appear red because of light reflecting off the eye’s blood vessels. When there’s some melanin, but not enough to produce a blue color, those red reflections combine with the small amount of blue to create a light purple, or violet, eye color.