When you are choosing the right e-liquid for you, you will need to know which PG/VG ratio to select as this plays a major role in the quality of your vaping experience. PG (propylene glycol) and VG (vegetable glycerin) are e-liquid bases and they can either be used on their own or in combination with each other to produce different effects. Getting the blend of PG/VG right is essential to getting the right level of vapour and the right kind of throat hit. So, how do you go about choosing the right ratio of PG to VG to suit your personal preferences? Here, we look at what you need to bear in mind.
Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
Vegetable glycerin (VG) is a natural, fairly viscous substance which has a naturally sweet flavour and a short shelf life because it is an organic substance. When it is used as an e-liquid base it has a lesser throat hit than when PG is used, but it also produces more vapour. This allows for smoother inhaling and the big clouds that many vapers prefer, however you will need a tank (such as a sub-ohm tank) which has efficient wicking to get the most out of your experience.
Vegetable Glycerin comes from vegetable oil and is therefore safe for vegetarians to use. It is already found in many medicines, personal care products and foodstuffs. Some examples of these include:
- Beauty products
- Pet foods
- Hand cream and soap
- Baked goods
- Jellies, capsule pills and medicinal creams
- Dental products and toothpastes
VG is classified as safe by the FDA and it is considered to be a benign substance with low toxicity when eaten or drank, and with a low potential for irritation to the eyes or skin. Although it is known to be safe when ingested by humans, there are still very few studies which have investigated the effect of VG on human health when it is inhaled. One such study carried out in 2008 showed that there were only minimal risks attached to inhaling aerosolised glycerol and therefore it is assumed that when VG is vaped it will also have no major impact on health. Very few people have allergic reactions to VG, making it a good alternative to those who are allergic to PG. If you do have a pre-existing allergy to coconut oil or palm oil, you may have a problem with VG based e-liquids, however this is rare. If you are diabetic, you may also struggle to metabolise VG, however at the levels used during vaping this is not likely to cause a problem.
As VG is thicker than PG, it may reduce the lifespan of your atomizer more rapidly than a PG based juice will. A high VG liquid will clog the heating coil more quickly and will not be very effective if you have certain types of tank. Older models and those with small coils are most likely to be incompatible with VG e-liquids.
When vaping VG e-liquids, you may experience a sore throat, increased thirst or a dry mouth, so you should drink more water and take more breaks from vaping if you feel the need.
Propylene Glycol (PG)
Propylene Glycol (PG) is produced as a by-product of petroleum. It has no colour or odour and is not as viscous as VG. It produces a throat hit when vaping which many vapers find similar to that experienced when they smoke tobacco cigarettes. PG also carries flavour better than VG and this means that it is the most common base for nicotine and flavour concentrates. PG can be found in lots of household items such as:
- Pet Foods
- Asthma inhalers
- Medical products
- Beauty products
PG has been shown to be safe to ingest orally in many studies and the FDA has recognised it to be generally safe when used as a food additive. However there are still limited studies that relate to the inhalation of PG. One such study which dates back to 1947 has shown that the inhalation of PG was harmless, however another which was held in 2010 suggested that those who inhale PGEs may be at a greater risk of developing immune disorders or respiratory problems including eczema, hay fever and asthma, although the evidence pointed towards the glycol ethers rather than PG itself being the cause of these problems. Despite several reports in the media that PG is toxic and is used in the production of anti-freeze this is not PG itself but a related substance called ethyl glycol which is not used in vaping. PG is safe for human consumption but it may be harmful to pets, having been linked to a problem in cats called Heinz body anemia. You should therefore be careful if you vape around your pets with a PG based e-liquid.
Some vapers find that when they vape with a PG based e-liquid they experience irritation in their throat. Although PG allergies are quite rare they do exist, and therefore if you have unpleasant symptoms such as a rash you should consider switching to a VG based e-liquid. Some side effects include sore throats, dry mouth and increased thirst. These symptoms can last up to a week while the body becomes used to the PG. During this time, vapers should consume more water, but should also be aware that their side effects could be as a result of stopping smoking and may not be as a result of the PG.
As PG is a non-toxic, synthetic, thin liquid with no natural flavour it is ideal at carrying e-juice flavours. It also has a long shelf life since its ingredients are not natural. PG produces a better throat hit but its higher resistance to temperatures means that a high voltage is necessary to produce vapour and this means that clouds are often thinner and there may be a burning taste if the voltage is not properly regulated.
Which PG/VG Ratio is Right for Me?
There is no definitive answer to which PG/VG ratio is correct for each individual and many vapers prefer to use varying levels of VG and PG for different purposes. Those who like a strong throat hit will prefer a higher level of PG, and as PG carries flavour better than VG, a better flavour will also be experienced. On the other hand, a higher VG fluid gives the throat a smoother feeling as well as a thicker mouthfeel, however the flavour will not be as strong. It is possible to counter this if you use more power to make more vapour, however you should always stay within the wattage and voltage limits of your atomiser as you could experience dry hits or even damage your vaping equipment. A higher PG ratio will help you to keep your vaping discreet in public places since less vapour is produced, however if you are keen on cloud chasing, you should go for a higher VG ratio.
100% VG – if you are allergic to PG or prefer cloud chasing, a 100% VG e-liquid is ideal, although it will give you no throat hit and may alter the flavour of your juice. It may also cause issues with your equipment maintenance.
80% VG/20% PG – this will produce very little throat hit and there will be plenty of vapour, however the VG’s sweetness will affect the flavour and you may experience more difficulty in maintaining your equipment.
70% VG/30% PG – this is a good level for anyone who likes plenty of vapour but also enjoys some throat hit. This ratio gives a smooth, but not overpowering feeling as well as reasonable clouds.
50%/50% – this is a good point at which to begin your experimenting with ratios.
20% PG/80%VG – this mix gives more vapour production but less of a throat hit.
100% PG – although this was quite common at one time, it is no longer very popular. This gives a very strong throat hit and delivers excellent flavour but very little vapour.
Most vapers are satisfied with a 70/30 to 30/70 blend, however if you are keen on a strong throat hit or want to avoid having dry hits, you should go for a stronger PG mix, whereas if you are looking for smoother hits and better vapour, a higher ratio of VG is ideal. However if there is more than 70% of one ingredient you need to be aware there could be issues. 80% or more of PG will give better flavour but the throat hit may be too strong or you may experience a sensitivity making vaping unpleasant. 80% or more of VG will cause maintenance issues to your equipment and you will have a poor quality throat hit. On the other hand, you will get a lot of vapour and you will find it less harsh on your throat while allowing you to try a higher nicotine strength than you might otherwise enjoy.
At the end of the day, you may need to experiment with a range of blends to find the ratio that best suits your own individual vaping preferences.