It's probably safe to assume that most of us have never connected our baby blues (or greens or browns) with an increased risk of skin cancer or a heightened athletic ability. But believe it or not, there's actually substantial research that correlates eye color with a variety of health traits—and, in some cases, potential risks.
Certain iris colors are tied to an increased chance of developing skin issues like vitiligo and melanoma, for example, while others are associated with a greater tolerance for pain. Curious what your own eye color says about your health? Here's what we discovered.
Blue, Green or Gray Eyes
As with fair skin, lighter irises indicate a lack of the protective pigment melanin, which in turn leads to a greater sensitivity to sunlight. This means that in addition to being at greater risk of vision damage from the sun, you're also more prone to skin cancer and macular degeneration, a type of vision loss that tends to be age-related. To that end, it might be wise to invest in UV-protection sunglasses in order to curb the potential for damage.
On the flip side, research also shows that people with light eyes tend to be more tolerant of pain. While studying 58 pregnant women, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School noted that those with light eyes reported the least amount of pain as well as a greater reduction in postpartum anxiety and depression as compared to their dark-eyed counterparts.
Brown or Dark Eyes
For starters, you're more prone to vision-clouding cataracts—which you can work to prevent by keeping your eyes protected from the sun. You're also slightly more susceptible to the skin pigment condition vitiligo than those with lighter eyes.
You're also likelier to be sensitive to alcohol, albeit less likely to become dependent on it (which makes sense, since you theoretically need to drink less in order to feel it). In a 2015 study of more than 1200 people, researchers found that those with light eyes were 54% likelier than those with dark eyes to develop a dependence on alcohol. A 2001 study, on the other hand, found that people with dark eyes exhibited the effects of inebriation more quickly than their light-eyed counterparts.
But perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of all this eye-related research is what your irises say about your athletic ability—and in that case, those with dark eyes may have the upper hand: A 1978 study suggests that those with brown eyes had significantly sharper reflexes than those with lighter eyes. And while some experts argue that the research is somewhat limited and outdated, it still counts for bragging rights, yes?
Regardless of the health forecast, as far as we're concerned, you should play up whatever color you've got.