Red Dead Redemption 2 has pushed the envelope regarding realism in open world games, with its NPCs reacting in a believable way to the world around them. They also react to Arthur Morgan's current condition, and they will make it clear they don't want him near them if his hygiene is poor.
Maintaining hygiene and appearance is among the game's mechanics that aren't explained all that well, as they are hardly central to the experience, so we will be taking a look at how to maintain your best appearance at all times in this guide.
Please note that there are some important differences between maintaining good hygiene in the story mode and Red Dead Online, as it's much less important in the latter due to the online environment.
Hygiene in the Story Mode
As already mentioned, hygiene isn't properly explained in Red Dead Redemption 2's story mode as it's not a particularly important gameplay mechanic. It's still good, however, to be in the best possible condition at all times, as not only will NPCs avoid you if you're dirty and start smelling, but shopkeepers will also prevent you from doing any business with them.
Getting cleaned up in the story mode is rather straightforward, and there are multiple ways to do so.
If you have mud on you, which can happen often if you walk on foot in small towns like Valentine, or if you explore the wild in search of herbs, you can get rid of it by getting into any river: it's far from being ideal, but it's practical and cost-efficient, as you don't have to pay to use any facility.
If you want to do things in a proper way, however, you will have to take a bath. Baths can be taken at any hotel in towns and cities for a few cents, allowing Arthur to clean the dirt and the dust from his journey. If you have some money to spare, you can also opt to get a deluxe bath, which comes complete with a serving woman that will be scrubbing down Arthur so that players won't have to do it themselves.
Deluxe baths aren't more effective than regular ones, but you can get some additional character development from Arthur as he converses with the woman, making the added cost well worth it in the end.
Red Dead Redemption 2 story mode also features a grooming system, thanks to which players can shave their beard and hair and change their appearance. Being a somewhat realistic game, hair and beard take some time to grow, so don't expect to head to any barber and have them magically grow your hair out in a matter of seconds.
Shaving in Red Dead Redemption 2 story mode can be done in two different ways. The first is to simply head over to Arthur's tent in the current Van der Linde gang camp, approach the barrel with the small mirror on it and interact with it to get the option to shave. You can not only get rid of your beard completely, but also style in several different ways. You can do the same at any barber, although that it will cost you a small amount of money.
Barbers are the only ones that can cut Arthur's hair and change his hairstyle. You can opt to go for a fully shaved look or change it in several different ways. As already mentioned, don't cut your hair if you're not entirely sure, as it will take some time to grow back: once the razor has gone over your head, there's no turning back!
Grow your Hair Back
In case you decided to shave your head or beard completely, and you're not satisfied with the way you look, there's a way to make everything grow back a little faster. Hair Tonics make hair and bear grow at double their usual rate, and the effect actually stacks, so if you take two hair tonics, they will grow four times their normal rate, which should restore your previous appearance in a short amount of time.
Hair Tonics have also another property: they allow your beard to grow past length 7, which is the last level that can be reached naturally. It takes a long time, however, to go past it, even with multiple Hair Tonics: it takes roughly 2 weeks to get from length 7 to 8, and then 8 to 9, while it takes around 3 weeks to get from length 9 to 10. Growing a luscious beard definitely takes some effort!
Hair tonics are extremely common to find. They can be purchased from any general store, and they can also be looted from random enemies and other select locations.
Hygiene in Red Dead Online
Maintaining hygiene in Red Dead Online is radically different than in the story mode, due to the fact that baths are not available in any form, as hotels cannot be accessed while playing online. NPCs still react to your current state, however, so you may still want to be clean at all times.
To wash your Red Dead Online character, you can only get into any river to take the mud and dust off of you like it's possible to do in the story mode. Not the most proper way of doing things, but it gets the job done. If you happen to be outside while a storm is on, you will also get clean thanks to the rain.
Another way to get cleaned is by changing your clothes if they are dirty. You can access the wardrobe while at your main camp or by interacting with general store shopkeepers and tailors.
Barbers are also available in Red Dead Online, so you can change your hair and beard style at will, like in the story mode, granted you must pay the barber for his services.
In both Red Dead Redemption 2 story mode and Red Dead Online, you must take care of your horse's hygiene as well, since it also influences the drain rate of its Health core. Once the horse is dirty, you will be notified with a brush icon which appears intermittently in place of the hearth in the Health interface icon: when this happens, head into any nearby river or stream on horseback to get the dirt off your beloved steed.