The 91st Academy Awards were another occasion to officially highlight Hollywood’s A-list for exceptional performances, but it was also an occasion to unofficially award Paul Rudd for yet again wowing the audience as the Ageless Boy Wonder. Rudd, alongside actress Sarah Paulson, inadvertently made a case for himself as the Best Visual Effects recipient: He’s clearly not aged a moment since first Botoxing our hearts in 1995 with Clueless.
The reminder that the babyfaced actor is turning 50 on April 6th led to the usual round of awe, admiration and investigation:
More remarkable is the fact that society has been collectively, annually experiencing this shocking Rudd-elation for years. It started in 2012 when Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan remarked in an interview with Rudd’s This Is 40 co-star Chris O’Dowd that Rudd is “an ageless treasure that all men and women in this country would marry.”
The next year, Vulture offered a quiz by way of proof that it’s impossible to tell what age Paul Rudd is in any given photograph or film, although they don’t offer any theories as to why.
MTV slobbered over Rudd’s agelessness in 2014, and his birthday tends to mark the annual occasion for jokes about him aging in reverse, Benjamin Button–style, or keeping an aging photo in the attic, Dorian Gray–style. In 2015, BuzzFeed called Rudd an immortal “time lord” and offered up definitive visual proof that Rudd is identical in two photos that are allegedly 15 years apart.
Then Rudd turned 46, and the whole What the Fuck Is His Actual Secret movement seems to have gained steam. People started trying to get to the bottom of it.
In Style declared that Paul Rudd’s secret to never aging is “sunscreen.”
And in the intervening years, guessing how Rudd keeps his face so fresh has become something of a media parlor game of sorts. Bustle attributed Rudd’s fountain of youth patent to his laughing a lot (!?!). Men’s Health noted that Rudd is ageless due to “diet, nutrition and avoiding alcohol.”
Now it’s everyone’s game on social media.
But the most logical explanation and unifying theory of why Paul Rudd doesn’t age is the same for anyone: genetics, lifestyle, wealth, diet, preventive care and likely some subtle cosmetic intervention of some kind that offsets all the above. Let’s break it down, part by part.
Hair: Paul Rudd appears to have his exact same hair, with a hairline that hasn’t budged a millimeter no matter the year. Maybe he’s born with it or maybe it’s Rogaine, but this is a key feature in keeping a man looking young.
Skin Care: Rudd says he is a big believer in sunscreen, and while that would be a completely valid explanation for aging well (sun damage is a top cause of premature aging), protection alone would not make the difference. We don’t know what he’s using, but as a wealthy actor, he has access to the best products around, or at least the free time to ensure he applies sunscreen and moisturizer daily. As MEL contributor Amanda Mull wrote for the Atlantic, the “best skin-care trick is being rich.”
Genetics: That said, some people simply have thicker, plumper and more melanin-rich skin that ages slower because it’s better prepped to deal with the sun. This depends largely on ethnicity, and even though Paul Rudd looks relatively fair-skinned, he’s also of Russian Jewish descent. According to dermatologists via the Fitzpatrick-Lancer skin-type scale, that background can mean you overproduce melanin, which acts like a natural sunscreen and can influence how likely you are to burn or tan.
Rudd also appears to have the same genetic luck of his young-looking father, who died of cancer in 2008, at 66. According to the linked photo, he was still sporting black hair and a big smile in his later years — as baby-faced as Paul. His mother, too.
Rudd is also male, and part of the reason men age “better” is that they have thicker skin by as much as 20 to 30 percent, which prevents sagging. Their skin is also oilier in general due to testosterone, which means it won’t be as dry and wrinkly. Women lose estrogen over time, which would have previously given them a boost in suppleness, but since men don’t, there’s a less obvious change in their skin suppleness due to aging. Also, every time men shave, they exfoliate, which helps with skin tone and cell regeneration. They also have “greater vascular reserve,” which means more blood goes to the skin, providing more nutrients.
Rudd has also sported a beard from time to time, another aging life hack — facial hair can protect from the free radicals due to sun exposure or pollution. It’s not until men hit 55 or 60 that the lowering of testosterone leads to skin changes in collagen or elastin (in women, this starts at 40 with declining estrogen).
Lifestyle: We can’t know what Rudd eats all the time, but we did learn when he revealed his superhero workout and diet to get shredded for the movie Ant-Man, which involved nixing booze and carbs for an entire year, that he has always worked out, just not as hard or often as he did for that film. But even if Rudd does eat badly, if he eats typical of his gender, that means he probably consumes less sugar and fewer carbs than women, and is more likely to eat more protein and healthy fats, which all contribute to a youthful appearance.
What’s more, given that Rudd seems (from photos) to have kept his weight on track over two decades, it’s impossible to believe he doesn’t follow some sort of consistent, deliberate fitness and diet routine as an actor who spends a lot of time on camera and isn’t exactly playing losers. There is no true fat Paul Rudd phase, unless you count the fact that in the middle of This Is 40, they shut down production because the powers-that-be thought Rudd was overweight, according to Leslie Mann’s account. He had to lose only 10 pounds, folks. 10 pounds.
Lifestyle is also about more than just what you eat and whether you work out. Research shows that men who have stable relationships age better (Rudd has been married to Julie Yaeger since 2003). To our knowledge, Rudd doesn’t smoke cigarettes: He quit with the help of hypnotherapy. No smoking is a huge factor in premature aging.
Cosmetic Intervention: Generally, there is no suspicion that Paul Rudd has had any “work” done on his face, aside from the fact that he can still play 30 while nearing 50. That said, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had help. That “help” could come in the forms of fillers, facials, lasers or injections that radically improve the skin’s texture and appearance. If they’re so undetectable, why wouldn’t he? Well, maybe he doesn’t actually need them (dun dun dun).
Cultural Perception: In spite of the fact that men do have some aging advantages, even when there are signs of aging in men, we don’t read them as Ew, gross, get away from me, Crypt Keeper, but rather, Hey there, Mr. Wisdom. Steve Carell and Jeff Goldblum definitely age, but the fact that we consider them even more attractive as a result is because we place a premium on men with full heads of salt-and-pepper hair with hairlines intact — along with those visible signs of having lived an interesting life and experienced interesting things. Men can be hot because they look wiser and older, whereas women are hot when they’ve evaded all signs of aging whatsoever.
While I agree that Paul Rudd does, in fact, have a baby-faced appeal that’s far too realistic for any non-wealthy, non-famous 49-year-old, when I look at pictures of him from Clueless to the Oscars, I think the whole Ageless Wonder thing is overblown.
To be clear, Rudd does look older. I mean, I get the hyperbolic sensationalism of the internet and all, but obviously Rudd has a few wrinkles and fine lines around the eyes he didn’t have before. That’s not a neg, and this in no way changes the fact that he looks youthful for 49. Still, it’s not as if he looks frozen in time, he just looks like he’s aging more slowly. And that’s because, for all the reasons listed above, he is.