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What Are VG and PG in Vaping? A Basic Guide

September 14, 2021

Whether you’re a seasoned vape user or you’ve just made the switch, there’s probably still a lot of experimenting you want to do to enhance your vape experience. 

The truth is, not all e-liquids are the same. Indeed, deciding what liquid to put into your vape is far more involved than simply choosing what flavour you want to try. 

But it doesn’t have to be complicated. 

All e-liquids come with differing proportions of two central ingredients: VG and PG. Each ingredient can produce a unique experience. It comes down to knowing what you want out of it and what proportions will give you that. 

These proportions — generally referred to as VG and PG ratios across the industry — impact everything from the amount of flavour to the intensity of the vapour. 

Read on as we break down the VG and PG ratios for you so that you can find the best e-liquid to suit your sophisticated taste. 

What Is VG?

VG stands for vegetable glycerin. Also known as glycerol or glycerin, it is a natural chemical derived from vegetable oils. Given that it’s highly effective as a thickening agent, VG gets included in all sorts of unexpected products. You’ll find it in make-up, deodorant, moisturizer, bath products, toothpaste, aftershave, medicine capsules, and even pet food. 

Its primary purpose in e-liquid is to control the density of the vapour. Since it’s much denser than its counterpart, PG, a higher level of VG content will give you a much thicker sensation to your vapour clouds. 

Typically, the thicker the vapour, the smoother the inhale, too.

All that thick vapour comes at a small cost, though. Some vape users who go with higher VG ratios report dehydration or dry mouth, which isn’t good for oral health. These side-effects are easy enough to combat, though. All you have to do is make sure you drink lots of water. You should make a practice of staying as hydrated as possible whether or not you’re vaping, anyway. 

VG liquids also may clog up your atomizer’s coils, so you’ll want to make sure that your vape model can handle higher VG concentrations.

Although more research still needs to be done on the health impacts of smoking VG, the UK's Food Standard Agency (FSA) has determined glycerol a safe additive. It is low in toxicity and safe for oral ingestion. 

What Is PG?

Propylene glycol is present in many of the same household products as vegetable glycerin, including toothpaste, pet food, beauty products, shampoo and some medicines. However, when it comes to e-liquid, PG differs significantly. 

PG is much less viscous than VG, but it is far more effective at providing what’s known in the vaping industry as a “throat hit.” If you're accustomed to nicotine, you’ll recognize the “throat hit” as a very similar sensation. 

Aside from the “throat hit” it often produces, PG typically carries flavour better than VG. For flavour concentration alone, e-liquids with higher PG ratios tend to be more prevalent.

Propylene glycol is colourless and odourless, and its primary function is to absorb water and maintain moisture levels.

Like e-liquids with high VG contents, liquids with PG also tend to produce side effects such as dehydration, dry mouth, and sore throat. If adequately hydrated, these symptoms should cease quickly, and you’ll be able to vape PG again enjoyably. Again, drinking water is always a good practice to follow when vaping. 

PG is ubiquitous as a food additive, mainly because the FSA and the EU's Food Additive Regulation have both deemed it safe for consumption in amounts under 3,000mg

What Does the PG/VG Ratio Mean in Vaping?

When you purchase e-liquid for your vape, you’ll notice some numbers written on the label. The VG amount comes first, followed by PG after the slash. So, if you see a ratio of 60/40, that means you are looking at an e-liquid with 60% VG to 40% PG. 

There are tons of options out there for ratio amounts. You can purchase liquid that’s 100% VG, 100% PG or anywhere in between. 

As we touched upon briefly above, varying PG and VG amounts produce different vaping experiences and are useful for different purposes. Although which one you prefer comes down to personal preference, let’s break it down more in-depth. 

Smoothness

The thickening agent properties of VG make it especially good at producing nice, thick clouds during the vaping process. The thickness of the vapour comes across to the user as a more substantial mouth experience, which many describe as smooth. 

There’s a lot more vapour produced with VG e-liquids, which can sometimes mute or hide the flavours. Ultimately, though, the abundance of vapour will translate to a smooth feeling in your mouth and throat. 

As a bonus, the thick, smooth vapour holds up when exhaled. E-liquids with high VG content tend to produce bigger, denser vapour clouds. 

Throat Sensation

Nicotine tends to produce a sharp physical sensation in the back of the throat when inhaled. In the industry, this sensation is what users refer to as a “throat hit.” Since PG is an especially good nicotine carrier, the “throat hit” usually follows in e-liquids with higher PG content. 

Though not always, PG tends to provide this nicotine-related throat sensation many vape-users prefer. 

Flavour

PG as a natural chemical is slightly better at carrying flavour components than its counterpart VG. Because of this, the flavour of the vapour will usually become slightly enhanced when it comes to smoking e-liquids with higher PG content. 

It doesn’t mean that your VG liquid will be flavourless, just that it might be subtler, whereas, with PG liquids, the flavour is easier to discern. 

What VG/PG Ratio Should You Use? Deciding Factors

What ratio of VG versus PG you use in your e-liquid is up to what kind of vaping experience you’re seeking. Do you want something smooth and subtle? Or do you want something that packs the flavour and a punch to the throat? 

That said, there are some scenarios we suggest you take into consideration when deciding on your purchase. 

Your Vape Set-Up

Not all vapes can accommodate all VG or PG ratios with the same efficacy. The thick smoke produced by VG liquids can often clog up the coils, particularly if they are on the smaller side. Clearomizers especially are not good at handling VG liquids. 

Tanks that take a lot more power, on the other hand, handle VG liquids just fine. Sub-Ohm tanks are generally a good choice if you’re looking for the thick smoke experience of VG. 

Likewise, rebuildable mods will give you some flexibility on coil size, so you can get some that are a little bit more resistant. 

All this is to say, check your vape starter kit before investing in your e-liquid. 

Your Sensitivity

It might seem self-evident, but for your comfort, it’s worth saying: just as not all e-liquids are the same, not all vape users are the same either. 

Your sensitivity to a specific ratio might be entirely different than that of your friends and fellow vape users. So be careful and experiment with various ratios to minimize the risk of having a bad reaction. 

While allergies to PG and VG are rare, some people might be more sensitive and observe some throat irritation with one chemical component over the other. Sensitivities tend to be more common with PG, so if you know yourself susceptible to skin or throat irritation, you might want to opt for a high VG liquid first. 

Your Setting

Vaping as a practice is still relatively new on the scene and not accepted everywhere publicly yet. Because of this, you should always strive to be aware of your surroundings and considerate of those around you. Some people are sensitive to vapour clouds or smells. 

If you want to vape in public, but you don’t want to draw attention to yourself or be inconsiderate of others, a higher PG liquid is your best bet. The less viscous vapour produces subtler clouds, allowing you to vape stealthily. 

Conclusion

So many options are out there to help you tailor your vape experience to your taste. At RELX, we suggest you take the time to figure out which type of e-liquid is best for you. 

Knowing the variance in VG and PG ratios is likely to significantly impact the quality of your vaping experience. It lets you control everything from the flavour to the smoothness of the vapour and the density of the vapour clouds. 

Get to know what you like and get to know your e-liquid. Your throat will thank you.