As you begin your journey into the great wide world of vaping, you are likely to encounter a number of curious products that will make you scratch your head. With all of the different e-liquids on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? You may have a few questions, such as, “What are all these chemicals on the ingredients list?” and “What are VG and PG ratios?”
This guide will walk you through the basics of the chemical composition of e-liquids and how you should choose between PG and VG liquids.
What is VG and PG?
Before we begin examining the differences between VG and PG, we first need to understand what they are used for. In terms of vaping, both VG and PG are base liquids that are turned into vapor when heated. They are responsible for carrying the flavoring and the liquid nicotine in your vape mod. If you’re experiencing no flavor from your vaporizer, there might be some troubleshooting you will need to perform.
VG and PG work together to provide you with a well-rounded vaping experience. When you look at a bottle of e-liquid on the shelf, it will usually tell you the ratio of PG to VG in the form of PG/VG. PG is almost always in the first position. Now that you understand why we use these chemicals, it’s time to take a deeper look at how each one helps us vape.
What is VG?
VG is the abbreviation for vegetable glycerin. Vegetable glycerin is a naturally occurring substance found in vegetable oils. It is mostly clear and odorless, although it does have a slightly sweet taste. Since it is derived from natural plant matter, it is safe for vegetarians to enjoy. Between VG and PG, vegetable glycerin is thicker and more viscous than PG.
The FDA, indicating that it is safe for human consumption, has deemed vegetable glycerin “generally safe.” It has been widely used for medical and food purposes for many years. Studies on the effects of vaporizing VG have shown minimal risks to users.
Why You Need Vegetable Glycerin
Vegetable glycerin is particularly effective at creating very large vapor clouds that are soft on the throat. This helps contribute to the fullness of your vape, giving you the sensation that you’ve taken a real hit. If you hope to learn any kind of vaping tricks, you can be sure that you’ll be using high VG liquids to get the job done. These liquids perform exceptionally well at low resistances and high temperatures. Basically, VG gives your vapor body.
Concerns with Vegetable Glycerin
Overall there are very few things to be concerned about when you choose to use VG liquids. You should be aware that the thicker liquid does affect your coils and wicks differently. In some early devices, VG was known to restrict the flow of liquid to the coils. Most manufacturers now have adjusted their devices to allow for better VG vaping.
If you are using pre-built atomizers with cotton wicks you may find that high-VG liquids wear down the life of your atomizers faster than PG liquids. This is because the VG may leave behind more of a residue when vaporized than PG would. Nevertheless, if you’ve gotten used to high-VG liquids, you probably won’t notice a difference in performance.
Other concerns relating to VG are that you may experience dry mouth or some throat soreness if you are vaping a lot with very high VG. Most people can get past this by taking a short break from vaping to give their body time to recover.
What is PG?
PG stands for propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is a synthetic by-product made from petroleum. It is clear, odorless and flavorless. PG has been used for years in medical and food grade products and has earned the FDA’s approval. Most notably, PG has long been used as a way of delivering breathing treatments via vaporizers in hospitals. Thus, the idea of turning PG to vapor to be inhaled was nothing new when personal vaporizers came along.
Despite the long history of PG use, there have been few studies that looked directly at the risk factors of PG alone. A number of studies have been conducted examining the effects of vaporizing PG when it is mixed with other chemicals, but we are still waiting for more comprehensive research about the isolated substance. Nevertheless, even the studies that have been done with other chemical compounds have shown that PG is harmless in the equation.
Why You Need Propylene Glycol
PG actually plays a very important part in all e-liquids. Research has shown that PG is far more effective at carrying nicotine and flavoring than VG. As a result, almost all food flavorings are suspended in PG. Thus, even if you are using a high-VG liquid, it’s likely that there is a tiny bit of PG in there just because that’s what the flavors themselves are made of.
Equally important is the way that PG performs when it is turned to vapor. We previously mentioned that VG is responsible for giving your vapor body and fullness. By contrast, PG is responsible for giving your vapor that kick or “throat hit.” This is what makes vaping feel similar to smoking a cigarette.
That little kick at the back of the throat is a familiar sensation to those who have smoked for a long time. New vapers who are trying to quit smoking should choose a liquid that contains enough PG to produce this effect, otherwise you may feel like something is missing if the hit is too soft.
Concerns with Propylene Glycol
For most people, there is little need for concern when choosing a PG liquid. However, many people are still hoping for more research to come forward concerning the effects of PG in aerosol form. While all existing research shows that PG is minimally risky for consumption it would be nice to see more detailed studies done since PG has become a major part of the vapor industry.
The one thing you might be concerned about is allergies. Some people report that they have mild allergic reactions to PG-based liquids. This often presents itself as a scratchy throat or a rash. So far there have been no reports of serious allergic reactions caused by PG, but you should be aware that if you begin vaping and start noticing signs of an allergy you should stop immediately and switch to a high VG liquid.
For the most part, people may find that they are sensitive to PG without necessarily being allergic. You may notice similar effects if you eat processed foods that contain PG-based flavorings as well.
Lastly, you may find that vaping too much PG leaves you with a sore throat or feeling dehydrated. If this is the case, try taking a break from vaping and drinking some water.
Choosing the Right VG PG Ratio
Now that you know what each of these substances does and why they are useful for vaping, it’s time to decide on the right PG/VG ratio for you. Keep in mind the individual effects of each ingredient as you explore what each ratio is likely to produce in terms of vapor and flavor.
- High or Max VG: These liquids are made to have the highest possible amount of VG to the exclusion of PG. They are termed “High” or “Max” VG instead of 100 percent VG because, as we mentioned above, almost all flavors contain PG so even a liquid that is made to be PG-free will still have trace amounts of PG. The good news is this level of PG is not usually enough to trigger a reaction even if you are sensitive to PG. Max VG liquids tend to be the liquids of choice for those performing exotic and competitive tricks thanks to the huge plumes of vapor. On the other hand, Max VG liquids are not exactly notorious for producing strong flavors.
- High or Max PG: In the beginning, high-PG liquids filled the vapor marketplace because people were so excited about the way PG handled nicotine and flavors. Alas, it was quickly discovered that high-PG liquids tend to leave you with anemic vapor clouds. You can still find some high-PG liquids around if you search. Many people who want Max PG liquids create them on their own using raw PG.
- 40 PG/60 VG: This is a good mid-range liquid. It is just short of being an equal blend of PG and VG, so it will produce a strong throat hit and intense flavors while still producing competent clouds. Given the turn to VG in recent years, this is actually a PG-heavy blend by comparison.
- 30 PG/70 VG: The 30/70 blend has become the most popular PG/VG ratio these days. Manufacturers have found that 70 percent VG gives the liquid plenty of vapor with just a slight kick at the back of the throat. This blend tends to be easy on the user and flows really well through most modern vape tanks.
- 20 PG/80 VG: If you aren’t quite ready to go to Max VG, you can still find some liquids available in 20/80 blend. This type of liquid will produce even greater clouds than a 30/70 mix but may lose some of the flavor and nicotine delivery that you would otherwise expect.
These are just some of the most common PG/VG ratios currently on the market. You may also find liquids available in 50/50 blends and other ratios. Most manufacturers have narrowed down their production to only two or three ratios to suit their users best instead of producing all liquids in every possible ratio combination.
Can You Blend VG and PG Vape Juices?
Technically speaking, all e-juices are already a blend of both VG and PG. However, if you want to mix your own, you can do so. You may purchase a liquid and find that it is too heavy in one direction or the other. You can try to mix in a little of the opposite base liquid to even out the flavor and vapor delivery on your own.
The choice between VG or PG doesn’t need to be a complicated one. After you’ve vaped for a little while you will generally have a good idea of how you want the vapor to feel in your mouth and lungs. If you love the big plumes of vapor, you will lean more toward a VG e-liquid. However, if you’re really trying to nail down that pure flavor and nicotine hit, then heavy PG may be the way to go.
Both liquids have proven themselves useful and safe in the vapor industry, so the decision is entirely up to you and your preferences. As you shop online, take a look around at what common ratios are being sold by mainstream manufacturers. This indicates the blends that have been most successful among vapers at large.