Reviewed by Thomas Stokkermans, OD, PhD on July 20, 2023
Yes, it is possible for a person to have purple, violet, or lavender eyes, though it is extremely rare. This occurs when the irises (the colored part of the eyes) have a purple or violet hue.
Purple irises can result from a genetic mutation that may or may not be related to a condition called albinism. Eye inflammation and some eye diseases can also cause the irises to appear purple. If something causes a person’s eyes to change color, the new color may be permanent.
How Rare Are Purple Eyes?
While it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number, research suggests that less than 1% of the global population have natural purple eyes. This makes purple the rarest eye color.
Violet eyes are sometimes found in people with albinism, which affects only one person out of every 20,000. But even people with albinism usually have blue eyes, hazel eyes, green eyes, or brown eyes. This is why it’s believed that less than 1% of people in the world have naturally violet eyes.
What Causes Violet Eyes?
Violet eye color can happen naturally through genetics or it may occur as the result of certain eye conditions.
Your hair, skin, and eye color come from the melanin in your body. Melanin is a substance produced by cells called melanocytes. While everyone has the same number of melanocytes, the amount of melanin (pigmentation) the cells produce varies from person to person.
A person whose cells produce high levels of melanin will often have a deeper skin tone and darker-colored hair and eyes. On the other hand, someone whose cells produce lesser amounts of melanin will have fairer skin and lighter eyes and hair.
The color of your eyes comes from the iris (the colored part of the eye), which has two different layers. The first layer of the iris is where your eye color appears. The second layer of the iris contains brown pigment. This is true for everyone, no matter what color your eye appears to be.
In violet or purple eyes, as well as blue and gray eyes, the first layer contains very little pigmentation. What gives them their color is how light reflects off the collagen fibers and other structures in this layer of the iris.
Purple Eyes and Albinism
Albinism is a group of genetic conditions that affect the production of melanin or pigment in the hair, skin, and eyes. It’s possible for albinism to affect the pigment of one feature but not others.
For example, you can have oculocutaneous (ock-you-low-cue-tay-nee-us) albinism, which affects melanin production in the hair, skin, and eyes.
There’s also ocular albinism, which only affects the eyes, while hair and skin maintain normal pigmentation. Ocular albinism is much less common than oculocutaneous albinism and is caused by a mutation in the GPR143 gene. This gene plays an important role in the eyes’ pigmentation.
As mentioned earlier, when there’s a lack of pigment in the iris, the color presented is a reflection of eye structures. Because there are so many blood vessels in the eye, light reflected from a “colorless” eye can appear red, pink, or purple.
Eye Diseases that Can Cause Purple Irises
If left untreated, certain eye conditions can cause the eye(s) to change color. Though rare, it’s possible for color changes to give the appearance of purple or lavender eyes.
Diseases that may cause violet eyes include:
- Horner’s syndrome – This disorder often follows a stroke. It affects eye tissues and can alter the eye’s pigmentation and pupil size.
- Pigment dispersion syndrome – Pigment deposits flake off of the iris and disperse to other areas of the eye. This can result in an eye color change.
- Pigmentary glaucoma – Pigment flakes get trapped in the eye’s drainage system, which clogs fluid drainage and raises eye pressure.
- Waardenburg Syndrome – This group of genetic disorders affects a person’s hearing as well as their skin, hair, and eye pigmentation.
- Fuchs’ heterochromic uveitis (FHU) – Structures of the front of the eye, including the iris, become inflamed and can cause a loss of pigment in the iris.
See an eye doctor if you notice any sudden changes in the appearance of your eyes, including the color of your irises.
What Is Alexandria’s Genesis?
Alexandria’s Genesis is a fictional condition in which a person is born with a genetic mutation that causes them to have purple eyes and, essentially, be a perfect human specimen. The legend gained popularity online in the early 2000s when an author of fanfiction included it in one of their stories.
In addition to having purple-colored eyes, people with Alexandria’s Genesis were said to have:
- Perfect vision
- Dark brown or black hair
- No body hair outside of what you’re born with
- Flawless fair skin that doesn’t burn in response to sun exposure
- The inability to age or gain weight
- Lifespans of 130 to 170 years
- An immune system that protects from any disease
The author said these completely unrealistic features were mostly found in women. And while flawless skin, a perfect immune system, and an inability to gain weight may sound great, this condition doesn’t actually exist.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Eyes
There’s been quite a bit of debate over the eye color of late actress Elizabeth Taylor. While there are images in which Ms. Taylor’s eyes have a violet hue to them, there are just as many (if not more) images in which her eyes are obviously blue.
This can likely be chalked up to the way melanin-lacking eyes reflect light. So, it’s very possible that Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes looked different in different situations. Her eyes could have appeared blue or purple depending on what she was wearing, the lighting where the picture was taken, and a variety of other factors.
How to Get Violet Eyes
If you’re desperate for some purple peepers, you can achieve the look temporarily with a pair of colored contact lenses. While many online vendors offer non-prescription colored contacts, it’s important to see an eye doctor first for a contact lens exam. The exact shape of your eye is unique to you, and contact lenses are not a one-size-fits-all product — even if you don’t need vision correction.
During the contact lens exam, your eye doctor will measure different parts of your eyes and have you try on some lenses to make sure you get contacts that fit comfortably and correctly. They may also test your tear film. They’ll give you the information you need to order new contacts, including the lens material or brand that worked best for you.
- Do Purple Eyes Exist? MedicineNet. October 2021.
- The World’s Population By Eye Color. WorldAtlas. Accessed July 2023.
- Oculocutaneous Albinism. MedlinePlus. March 2023.
- Information Bulletin – What Is Albinism? National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation. Accessed July 2023.
- Melanin. Cleveland Clinic. March 2022.
- Eye Colors. Cleveland Clinic. June 2021.
- Can the eyes really turn purple? MedicalNewsToday. May 2018.
- Horner Syndrome. Medscape. November 2022.
- What Is Pigment Dispersion Syndrome? American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeSmart. May 2023.
- Waardenburg Syndrome. MedlinePlus. August 2022.
- Is There a Disease that Causes Purple Eyes? All About Vision. October 2021.