Do you think that flavors are the majority of what you inhale when you vape? What about nicotine? Wrong on both counts; almost all of the contents of any bottle of e-liquid are two carrier liquids: vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG). The carriers in an e-liquid have several important functions. They dilute highly concentrated nicotine and flavors to their proper strengths for inhalation. They emulsify an e-liquid’s ingredients and eliminate the need to shake the bottle constantly to keep those ingredients mixed. They also form large, smoke-like clouds when heated. Without those clouds, you wouldn’t have the visual cue that vaping is a replacement for smoking. VG and PG are very, very important in any e-liquid.
The vast majority of e-liquids contain both VG and PG, and the ratio of those carriers can drastically affect the experience you have when vaping. Reading this article, you’re going to learn what VG and PG are and find out what they contribute to an e-liquid. You’re also going to learn how to pick the best VG/PG ratio for your vaping style. Let’s begin!
What Are VG and PG?
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are common ingredients in food and beauty products. They’ve been in use long enough that the FDA classifies both as “Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS),” although that classification refers to oral consumption – not to inhalation. Studies about the safety of vaping are ongoing. VG and PG serve similar purposes. Both ingredients inhibit microbial activity, helping to prevent bacterial growth in products. They attract and retain moisture, helping to keep shelf-stable products from drying out. They keep a product’s ingredients mixed. PG is the liquid that makes fog machines possible. VG tastes slightly sweet and is sometimes used to enhance the flavor of foods.
PG Benefits an E-Liquid’s Flavor and Wicking Speed
Between VG and PG, propylene glycol is much thinner. While it’s rare today to find an e-liquid containing no VG at all, 100-percent PG e-liquid was common in the early years of the vaping industry. The low viscosity of PG helped those e-liquids flow easily through the very small atomizers that early e-cigarettes used. The more PG an e-liquid contains, the more easily it will flow through an atomizer coil with small wick openings. The smallest vaping devices will not work properly without an e-liquid containing at least a little PG.
PG is an excellent carrier of flavors. The more PG an e-liquid contains, the more clearly defined that e-liquid’s flavors will be because PG contributes virtually no flavor or sweetness of its own. Many people also believe that PG enhances an e-liquid’s throat hit.
Since PG is a thin liquid, the vapor clouds that it produces are also thin. The small, thin clouds that an e-liquid high in PG produces disappear quickly into the air. PG also has a very thin, almost nonexistent mouth feel.
Sensitivities and Allergies
The one drawback of propylene glycol is that a few people are sensitive or allergic to it. The good news is that PG allergies are rare – and given how common PG is in food and beauty products, you’d probably already know if you were sensitive to it. If you are sensitive to PG, though, that’s one reason why all-VG e-liquids exist.
VG Benefits an E-Liquid’s Cloud Production and Mouth Feel
Between VG and PG, vegetable glycerin is much thicker. The thickness prevents high-VG e-liquids from flowing efficiently through atomizer coils with very small wick openings. Fortunately, most makers of vaping products design their tanks with very large wick openings to accommodate high-VG e-liquids.
Unlike PG, VG has some flavor of its own; it tastes a bit sweet. If you’re vaping an e-liquid with a sweet flavor profile, you’ll appreciate the additional sweetness that VG provides. Some people find, though, that too much VG can muddle the individual flavor notes in an e-liquid a bit. If you like savory e-liquid flavors such as tobacco, you may prefer e-liquids with less VG.
Enhanced cloud production is the greatest benefit that VG brings to an e-liquid. VG creates huge vapor clouds that feel creamy in the mouth and hang in the air for several seconds before dissipating. If you’re the type who enjoys watching clouds as you exhale them, a high-VG e-liquid is definitely what you want.
What Is the Best VG/PG Ratio?
Now you have a better understanding of what VG and PG are and how they affect an e-liquid individually. It’s time to discuss the best VG/PG ratio for your e-liquid. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point, the good news is that most e-liquid today contains about 50-70 percent VG, and most vaping product manufacturers optimize their tanks to work well with that VG/PG ratio. You don’t need to think about your e-liquid VG/PG ratio if you don’t want to. However, there are some cases in which you might want to think about it.
- Do you get a constant burned taste when vaping – even when you’ve just changed your coil? Do you have to wait for a long time between puffs to minimize that burned taste? Your e-liquid is too thick for the vaping device that you’re using. Try an e-liquid with a 50/50 VG/PG ratio. If you still have problems, you might need to find an e-liquid with even more PG.
- Does your tank leak out the bottom no matter what you do? Have you taken the tank apart and reassembled it, checking all of the silicone gaskets for damage? Your e-liquid is so thin that it’s seeping through the coil’s wick openings and leaking out the bottom of the coil. Try a 70/30 VG/PG ratio.
- Do you find your e-liquids too sweet? Are you having trouble focusing on the individual flavor notes of your e-liquids – even when you use unsweetened e-liquids? You might dislike the sweetness of vegetable glycerin. Try an e-liquid containing as much PG as possible.
- Do you enjoy chasing clouds? Do you want to blow the biggest clouds that you possibly can? Try an 80/20 VG/PG ratio or look for an e-liquid with “Max VG” on the label. To create a Max VG e-liquid, the maker uses as much VG as possible without compromising the desired flavor and performance.
~ Jason Artman
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