Why Your Eyes Change Color Depending On Your Mood

Photo: Irzhanova Asel / Shutterstock
woman with one brown eye and one blue eye

Most of us have seen a mood ring in our lifetimes. Depending on your body temperature, the ring would change colors.

It seemed like magic back then, but as an adult you may have learned that there are thermotropic liquid crystals that created the change. Similarly, you may have noticed that the color of your eyes can change depending on what kind of mood you are in.

But how true is that, really?

Can your eyes change color with your mood?

Let’s be clear. When we talk about your eyes, we are not talking about going from blue eyes to brown eyes. The hue of your eye can change depending on pupil size, which varies based on different factors.

When a person’s eye color changes color with mood deviations, the eyes appear brighter in some cases. But generally, people’s eyes will stay within the same family of colors no matter their mood.

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The scientific reason your eyes go from one hue to another is oxytocin. When you have emotional responses like happiness, anger, fear and sadness, oxytocin is released in your body.

This hormone causes your pupils to change in size, resulting in the pigments in the iris either expanding or contracting. This is why the eye color darkens or lightens.

These changes to the pupil are controlled by a part of the eye called the iris. It is a muscle that contracts and relaxes, making your pupils bigger or smaller.

Another factor to think about is your facial expressions that come with mood changes. If your eyes are squinted, you have diffused the amount of light you let in, making your eyes appear darker in color.

It is possible for your eyes to change to become a lighter or darker hue with your mood, but drastic changes from one eye color to another could be a sign of eye disease and require an eye exam.

If you have concerns about your eyes, it is best to see an eye care professional that can let you know if it’s something serious. However, there are other reasons your eyes can change color.

10 Reasons Your Eyes Change Color

Your mood isn’t the only reason your eye can change color from moment to moment. There are other influences that can make their appearance change.

1. You're getting older.

Most babies are born with a "neutral" eye color, no matter the race. This is usually a grey or blue hue. As the child ages, melanin levels increase, the eye color darkens, and the true color emerges.

This usually happens during the first few months of life, but in some cases, melanin continues to build, and the eyes continue to darken over time. In some situations, Caucasians lose melanin as they age, causing the eyes to lighten over time.

2. You're exposed to the sun.

Sun has been known to change hair color by naturally bleaching it. On the flip side, sun prompts the body to produce more melanin, which can make the eyes darker in color.

3. You're eating high-iron foods.

Surprisingly, food is one of the things that can alter your eye color.

Foods that have high iron content have been known to make the eyes look brighter. Eating fish can deepen the color of the eyes. Drinking chamomile or Uva Ursi Tea will make your pupils relax, creating an appearance of warmth.

4. You're in rooms with bright or dark light.

If you are in a room filled with bright fluorescent lights, your pupils will constrict to block out some of the light. This, in turn, will make your eyes appear lighter due to the reduction in size of the pupil.

On the other hand, if you find yourself in a darkened room, the pupils will enlarge in an attempt to let more light in. This, of course, will make your eyes look more shadowy because of the pupil’s expansion.

5. Your style choices affect how your eye color is perceived.

Everyone has had someone tell them something like “red brings out the color of your eyes.” Visually, this is true. When a person wears colors that accentuate the eyes, they can seem brighter or more intense.

However, this is only a matter of perception. The color of the eyes has not changed at all, but the clothing, makeup, or hairstyle can place emphasis on the eyes, making them appear enhanced.

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6. You suffer from a health-related condition.

The state of your health is something that can definitely influence changes in the color of your eyes. If your eyes have changed color and it’s not related to any of the reasons listed above, you may need to see a doctor.

There are many health-related conditions that can cause issues with the eyes. Indicators are changes in the whites of the eyes to a yellow or green tint, or prolonged lightening or darkening of the iris.

If you experience any of these symptoms, see your eye doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when managing your health and wellness.

7. You've experienced eye trauma.

Trauma to your eyes can result in unexpected changes. An injury to the iris can result in a loss of tissue that can change eye color permanently.

Other damaging incidents to the eye can result in scar tissue or blemishes that can change the appearance of all parts of the affected eye.

8. You have pigmentary glaucoma.

There are various forms of glaucoma that can impact your health. Pigmentary glaucoma affects the back of the iris, causing granules of pigment to collect on the cornea.

The loose pigment can also collect on the iris, causing the color of the eyes to change. Some have also experienced a change after glaucoma surgery due to a condition called iris postoperative heterochromia.

9. Your medication is causing your eyes to change color.

A class of medication called prostaglandins, used in the treatment of glaucoma, has the side effect of darkening the eyes. This class of medicine is also used in solutions meant to grow eyelashes, though in less potent form.

Prostaglandins work to lower pressure in the eye caused by glaucoma. Studies have shown that they darken the lighter colored pigments in the iris, making the eye a uniform, darker color.

10. Cataracts are clouding your eye lens.

Although cataracts do not directly affect the iris, they cloud the lens of the eye, giving it a cloudy look and muting the vibrance of the color.

Cataracts are most common in older adults and obscure vision. It has to be treated with surgery. An Australian study concluded that people with dark eyes are 2.5 times more likely to have cataracts.

Your eyes can have small changes in hue or intensity due to your mood. Changes that are long-lasting or extreme should be discussed with a medical professional.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and the author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment & news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.