Although the term "e-liquid" sounds like it means a liquid made of electronics, it’s actually a liquid that can be vaporized. When it comes to e-liquids there are a wide variety of names that can describe them. No matter what the end product is called though, most are comprised of the same basic ingredients. Read on to learn more about the ingredients that are included in most e-liquids.
The most common ingredient included in a wide variety of legally manufactured e-liquids is propylene glycol, otherwise known as “PG”. This ingredient has a syrup-like consistency and is a synthetic liquid made from propylene oxide derived from petroleum products. PG is also commonly found in tobacco, food, pharmaceutical, and personal care products. When it comes to e-liquid, this ingredient acts as a flavorless thinning agent. It does not detract from the flavor intensity of the final product and mixes well with other e-liquid ingredients.
PG also provides what some vapers refer to as “throat hit”, or the resistance that you experience when inhaling a lit cigarette. It helps those who are new to vaping get the feel of the inhale they were used to when they smoked cigarettes. Over time vapers may want to reduce the amount of PG in their e-liquid in order to lessen the irritation it causes on the throat. Since it is thinner than the rest of the common e-liquid ingredients, a higher ratio of it in your e-liquid will make cleaning your vape easier as well.
The next most common ingredient in e-liquid is vegetable glycerin, otherwise known as “VG”. It is commonly mixed with PG in order to provide the e-liquid with a thicker vapor density and larger vapor clouds. VG is typically made from natural vegetable fats such as soybean, coconut, and palm, and has an odorless, thick syrup-like consistency. It is also commonly used in a wide variety of food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.
The ratio of PG to VG in an e-liquid will vary depending on the manufacturer and the effects you are looking for when you vape. If you are using vaping as a nicotine-cessation tool, then you should probably lean towards a higher ratio of PG to VG in your e-liquid. Similarly, if you are seeking an intense flavor in your e-liquid, then you will want to go heavy on the PG. However, if you are a “cloud-chaser” then a higher ratio of VG to PG is the way to go. Those who prefer to use vapes with a “dripping” or coil set-up also prefer to use e-liquids with a higher ratio of VG to PG. This is because the VG allows the e-liquid to drip better onto the cotton included in custom coil setups. It also provides a smoother throat hit and more visible clouds.
VG does have a sweeter taste than PG, so it will interfere with any natural flavoring included in e-liquid. Some e-liquid flavors don’t taste great with a hint of sweetener though. This should be kept in mind along with your personal vape pen preferences when selecting an e-liquid flavor and ratio.
The last common ingredient of a standard e-liquid is some form of flavoring. Although manufacturers also make e-liquid without flavoring, it is less common due to the nature of vaping. Oftentimes flavoring is what enables many smokers to prefer vaping over cigarettes or dry herb vaporizers. It provides a new kind of experience and a different association with nicotine to take advantage of as a cessation tool.
The flavor concentrates included in e-liquids are sourced from a wide variety of manufacturers. However, the safest flavor additives are those made from natural ingredients. Oftentimes, these flavor additives are the same ones used in shaved ice or Italian sodas. No matter how the flavor concentrate was created though the flavor will need to “steep” to reach its full potential in the e-liquid. Steeping is very similar to the process of aging fine meat or aerating a bottle of red wine and is done to allow the flavor to become more intense. E-liquid steeping is best when done in a cool, dark location for a few days. Many e-liquids come “pre-steeped”, but some DIY manufacturers specify that the e-liquid needs to rest a few days before being used.
Although the basic ingredients of any e-liquid are typically a custom ratio of PG, VG, and flavor concentrate, that ratio will change depending on the other additives included. You will want to look into these additives and the sources carefully to determine if it is something you want to be vaping. Additionally, purchasing your e-liquid from a reputable and certified manufacturer will lessen the chance of unhealthy additives being mixed into your e-liquid.
The most common e-liquid additive is diluted nicotine. Nicotine can be found from a wide variety of sources as well, and the origin matters when it comes to the purity of the product. Every country has different manufacturing standards for this product and therefore will have a different quality in the end.
By the time liquid nicotine is used by an e-liquid manufacturer, it is heavily diluted to make it safer to vape and work with. Pure liquid nicotine has a ratio of 1,000 mg to mL and requires special safety equipment to handle and process. If pure nicotine is being handled, then the manufacturer should use hazmat suits and a ventilation hood, since skin contact with this product can lead to serious consequences. Also, the purer the nicotine, the more effect it will have on the flavor of the e-liquid. Because of these factors, diluted nicotine for e-liquid manufacturing is at a ratio of 100 mg to mL. A small amount of this ratio will go a long way though, and it's recommended to do the math before committing to a high level of nicotine in your e-liquid. If you are using e-liquid with nicotine as a cigarette cessation-tool, then you should consider how often you smoke cigarettes and the intensity of nicotine in the cigarettes you smoke in order to find the right ratio for you.
Another common additive to e-liquids is distillate oil. This oil can be derived from hemp or other plant matter. Distillate oil is usually highly refined, and only includes the specified cannabinoids, such as CBD. This distillate oil often needs to be mixed with PG to lessen the viscosity so that it can be used with a vape atomizer. It also lacks the natural terpenes and additional cannabinoids included in a full-spectrum oil. Because of this, distillate oil often has terpenes added back into the e-liquid or natural flavorings are added in order to make it more attractive to vape.
The current industry alternative to distillate oil is an oil created with the CO2 extraction process. This method of manufacturing preserves more of the original plant matter in the end product, without having to incorporate additives. Because of this, it is often preferred by many vapers and can be strain-specific.
Overall, there are a limited number of ingredients used to create a high-quality e-liquid. Be sure to do your research and dig up test results to be certain about what is included in the e-liquid you are vaping. Not all e-liquid is created equally, but it is up to you to determine which ratio and quality of ingredients work well for you.
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