One of the best things about buying e-liquid these days is that, unless you’re striving for absolute perfection in your vaping experience, it’s no longer necessary to understand the finer points of vape juice composition like VG/PG ratios. That’s because, in general, e-liquid makers do their best to create vape juice that will work with most of the vaping equipment on the market. You can just buy what sounds good to you, and you can be confident that it’ll work with the device and tank that you have.
For some people, though, vaping ends up becoming a serious hobby. Those people want to tinker with every aspect of their vaping experience in the never-ending quest to find the most perfect puff possible – and if that sounds like you, you’re going to have to come to terms with vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG).
VG and PG are the two most plentiful ingredients in any e-liquid. In fact, they’re about 95 percent of what you inhale when you vape – so they affect your vaping experience more profoundly than you might realize.
How Does E-Liquid VG/PG Ratio Affect the Vaping Experience?
In e-liquid, the VG/PG ratio affects the vaping experience in the following ways:
- It influences the flavor of the e-liquid.
- It influences the mouth feel of the e-liquid.
- It influences the size and volume of your vapor clouds.
- It determines the type of vaping equipment that works best with the e-liquid.
What Are VG and PG?
Vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol are two extremely versatile compounds that are common in foods, cosmetics, skincare products, medicines and more. Both ingredients have the following properties:
- They are emulsifiers that help to keep a product’s ingredients mixed. When a product contains VG or PG, you don’t need to shake the bottle repeatedly because the ingredients won’t tend to separate.
- They capture and trap moisture. Glycerin is popular as an oil-free skin moisturizer for that reason. VG and PG also help to keep shelf-stable baked goods – like cakes and doughnuts – from drying out.
- They inhibit microbial growth and help to keep products from spoiling.
- VG and PG are both solvents that can be used to capture scents, flavors and beneficial properties. You’ll often find herbal tinctures in health food stores that contain glycerin rather than alcohol. Essential oils and flavor concentrates may also use VG and PG as bases.
- Vegetable glycerin is also unique in that it tastes slightly sweet but contains no sugar. It is sometimes used to enhance the sweetness of food products without increasing their sugar content.
- VG and PG both vaporize and form visible clouds at relatively low temperatures, which is why they’re used in e-liquid.
How Are VG and PG Made?
How Vegetable Glycerin Is Made
Food-grade glycerin is generally a byproduct of the soapmaking industry. Soap is made by adding lye to fat. The fat is usually soybean oil, palm oil or animal tallow. The lye triggers a chemical reaction that converts the fat to soap and glycerin. Because the world needs lots of soap, there is plenty of glycerin to go around – which is a good thing considering its many uses. Glycerin is also a byproduct of biodiesel production. Only food-grade glycerin is used in the production of e-liquid.
In vaping, glycerin is always referred to as “vegetable glycerin” to signify the fact that animal-derived glycerin isn’t used to make vape juice.
How Propylene Glycol Is Made
Propylene glycol is made synthetically by factories that produce chemicals. It can be produced from glycerin or from propylene oxide. Propylene oxide is more common as a source for propylene glycol for e-liquid use. That’s because, when PG is made from glycerin, the glycerin usually comes from biodiesel production. Biodiesel-derived glycerin isn’t food grade.
How Does VG Affect an E-Liquid?
VG and PG influence the performance of an e-liquid through the ratio in which they’re blended. If an e-liquid has more VG than PG, it has properties that differ from the properties of an e-liquid containing more PG than VG.
These are the properties of an e-liquid containing more VG than PG. Aside from nicotine salt e-liquid – which usually has a 50/50 VG/PG ratio – most of the e-liquid made today contains more VG than PG.
- Because VG is very thick, an e-liquid that’s high in VG will have a thick, creamy mouth feel and will produce very large vapor clouds that fill a room and hover in the air for a long time.
- Because VG is slightly sweet, it can enhance the sweetness of an e-liquid. Using a high percentage of VG makes it possible to create a sweet vape juice that contains little to no sucralose. However, the sweetness of VG may tend to make individual flavor notes in a complex e-liquid difficult to detect.
- VG is very smooth and creates almost no throat hit when you inhale it. That’s a good thing for most people who prefer low-nicotine e-liquids. If you like a higher-nicotine e-liquid that delivers a stronger throat hit, though, you’re going to want a blend that’s higher in PG.
How Does PG Affect an E-Liquid?
E-liquid containing more PG than VG isn’t common today. The highest-PG ratio that you’re likely to find is 50/50, which is the VG/PG ratio used for most nicotine salt e-liquid. High-PG e-liquids do exist, but you’ll have to search for them. These are the properties of an e-liquid containing more PG than VG.
- Because PG is thin, an e-liquid that’s high in PG will have a thin mouth feel and will produce smaller vapor clouds that disappear quickly. A high-PG e-liquid is ideal for discreet vaping. If you hold the vapor in your lungs for a few seconds, you won’t exhale visible vapor.
- The fact that PG is so thin means that it’ll work well in smaller vaping devices. A small vaping device has a small atomizer coil assembly with small wick holes. You need a thin e-liquid if you’re using a small vaping device.
- PG has almost no flavor of its own. If an e-liquid has a high-PG blend and a complex flavor profile, it’ll be easier to taste the e-liquid’s individual flavor notes.
- PG produces an assertive, slightly scratchy throat hit. If you want a vaping experience that produces a cigarette-like feeling in the throat, you need an e-liquid with as much PG as possible.
What Should I Do if I Am Sensitive or Allergic to PG?
There are some e-liquids that use only VG and contain no PG at all. That’s because a few people are allergic or sensitive to PG. The good news is that, if you are allergic or sensitive to PG, you’d probably know already because propylene glycol is an ingredient that you encounter constantly when you use normal products like powdered drinks, lotions, makeup, toothpaste, mouthwash and more. It’s very unlikely that you’ll discover a previously unknown PG allergy from vaping.
If you do experience unpleasant symptoms when vaping, though, it might be a good idea for you to eliminate your PG consumption and see if the symptoms subside.
If you want to find a PG-free e-liquid, the term you need to look for is “100-Percent VG.” Terms like “High-VG” and “Max-VG” don’t have universal definitions in the vaping industry, and an e-liquid labeled with one of those terms may not be entirely free of PG. Even if a Max-VG e-liquid contains no added PG, it may still use PG-based flavors. An e-liquid labeled “100-Percent VG” should use only VG-based flavors.
What’s the Best VG/PG Ratio for Me?
The Best VG/PG Ratio for Sub-Ohm Tanks
As you’ve learned from reading this article, an e-liquid’s VG/PG ratio will affect your vaping experience in some noticeable ways. If you’re using a modern sub-ohm tank, you can generally expect your equipment to work well with any e-liquid containing at least 50 percent VG. From there, you can adjust your flavor, throat hit and vapor production to your liking by buying e-liquids with different VG/PG ratios such as 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 and 90/10. All of those VG/PG ratios – even 100-percent VG e-liquids – should work fine in most modern sub-ohm tanks.
The Best VG/PG Ratio for Pod Systems
If you’re using a pod system and are buying nicotine salt e-liquid, there’s generally no need to worry about VG/PG ratios. Most pod systems are calibrated to work well with a 50/50 VG/PG ratio, and almost all nicotine salt e-liquid has that ratio. If you’re going to use freebase nicotine e-liquid with your pod system, though, keep in mind that most pod systems will not work well with high-VG e-liquids because those e-liquids are too thick. If you experience harsh “dry hits” when using a freebase nicotine e-liquid with a pod system, the e-liquid’s VG/PG ratio is the first thing you should check.
The Best VG/PG Ratio for Cigalikes and Small Vape Pens
High-PG e-liquid isn’t common in the United States these days because that’s the best type of e-liquid for cigalikes and extremely small vape pens. Those types of devices aren’t as popular as they used to be because most of the people who would have purchased those devices are buying pod systems instead. If you do have a refillable cigalike or small vape pen, though, you should use an e-liquid with the highest amount of PG possible.