Welcome to ELR Vorst.
The average e-liquid contains 3 components: base liquids, flavorings and nicotine.
- VG or vegetable glycerine
- PG or propylene glycol
VG is the more viscous (i.e. thicker) of the 2 and produces more vapor than PG. Is doesn’t carry flavors very good however. It is very smooth to vape and has a slightly sweet flavor to it
PG is a lot less viscous (i.e. watery), is a most excellent flavor carrier. It doesn’t have much of a flavor on its own and produces a little bit of a throat hit.
Most e-liquids have a specific ratio between VG and PG as a basis. The choice for this ratio depends a lot on the type of equipment that you vape. Is the e-liquid too thin, your tank will start leaking more easily. Is your e-liquid too thick, your wick may not keep up with your e-liquid consumption. You’ll scorch the wick and destroy your coil. If your equipment can take a range of ratios, then the ratio of an e-liquid is purely a personal choice. If you have sensitivities to PG or VG (both occur but rarely), you have to choose your equipment in function of the PG/VG ratio you want to vape.
You may also see and hear people talk about distilled water, vodka, peg400, … as a beginner, just focus on PG and VG right now.
The flavors that we use to make e-liquids aren’t really necessary to vape. You can vape straight VG, PG or a mix of both but the experience is a lot nicer for most of us with. Most of the time our flavors are chemical molecules produced in a lab with varying degrees of realism. There are also naturally extracted flavors, combinations of both and sometimes, people even make their own. The latter are often called N.E.T.s. That came from Naturally Extracted Tobacco, but people extract much more than tobacco these days.
Most flavors are suspended in PG because of its excellent flavor carrying properties. Another possibility is that a manufacturer uses a type of alcohol because that as well is a good flavor carrier. There are however people who have allergies to both, so you will find a smaller selection of flavors available in VG. Those aren’t bad, but you should realize that with the bad flavor carrying properties of VG, you may need to make some adjustments when it comes to steeping(*).
Vapers usually use food grade flavor concentrates but there are a lot of them and not all are safe to vape. Make sure they are ALWAYS water soluable and don’t contain any oils or vitamins. That will literally kill you so please, watch out. Known flavors are in the ELR database and if there’s any health concern, you can read about it on the flavor page. Don’t experiment with flavors you don’t know if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.
This is, like flavors, an optional ingredient of e-liquids but this one is probably the most important part of e-liquids for smokers which allows them to quit smoking by vaping. This one is responsible for taming the nicotine addiction.
You see it in varying strengths and varying VG/PG ratios. VG and PG are just the carriers for the nicotine, the filler, the dilutant, similarly to the flavor concentrates. The higher the % of your nicotine liquid, it’s usually cheaper per ml of finished e-liquid BUT it is more difficult to handle and store, more dangerous to handle. High % nicotine will go bad more quickly too and waste is expensive. Most mixers settle for somewhere between 48mg/ml and 100mg/ml. If you are unlucky enough to live in an EU country, 20mg/ml is the highest legally allowed strength for safety reasons.
Because of viscosity, it is much easier to work with nicotine liquids suspended in PG but there are people who prefer to have a max VG e-liquid and choose for VG suspended nic. Nic in a specific PG/VG ratio is probably interesting for nic boosters (which you need to top up a shortfill with) but for general DIY mixing purposes, it’s much more common to use 100% PG or 100%VG.
There’s a difference between freebase and nicotine salts too but to avoid this topic getting out of hand, I suggest you do some reading on that, as well as on nicotine storage.
What nicotine % in e-liquid is good for you? That’s difficult to answer. It depends on your addiction, smoking habits, vaping equipment, vaping habits, … Again, another topic for which I suggest you read. All that is covered already. The search function in this forum is your friend, use and abuse it.
Beginners often mix up % and mg/ml for nicotine. 10mg/ml nicotine is a heavy but not uncommon dose of nic in e-liquid but if you vape 10% nic e-liquid (=100mg/ml) you could end up in hospital with nicotine poisoning.
(*) steeping is the process of letting your flavors all come together and settle down. Right after mixing, there’s some chemistry going on between the flavors before the e-liquid becomes really stable and it usually smooths out harsher flavors. The steeping process can take a couple days to multiple weeks. Hot debate topic, plenty info about it on the forum.