Nic Salts vs Freebase Nicotine


Published on 23 Jan, 2023

Nic salts - the words that have been moving around a lot lately. The popularity has stirred curiosity among new and experienced vapers, who have been using freebase nicotine for some time. Most do not even know what they have been vaping.

So, what’s the difference between nic salts and freebase e-juice?

The simple answer is, both nic salts and freebase nicotine are products of tobacco plants. Freebase e-juice is made with nicotine in its purest form, while nic salts are made from nicotine bonded with an acid like benzoic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, or malic acid to increase their vaping effectiveness.

Ride along as we take you through the nitty-gritty of nic salts, including the characteristics of each, their differences, and how and when they are used. You will also learn the ideal vaping device to use with each e-liquid type.

What are Nicotine Salts?

Nicotine salts (commonly known as nic salts) are naturally occurring elements in the leaves of tobacco plants. Nicotine does not naturally exist as a free base. It is usually in its salt form. However, the natural nic salts are usually chemically modified into a more stable compound that can be vaporized effectively.

There is a lot of chemistry going on with nic salts and freebase nicotine. I won’t bore you to death with scientific geek stuff, so let's do the bare minimum.

Here is what you need to know.

  • Unmodified nicotine salts have a weak base that constantly seeks stability. That nicotine salt is not in the best form to be vaped unless vaporized at high temperatures which don’t give the best vaping experience.
  • Modified nic salts are made more stable by reacting natural nicotine salts with acids naturally occurring in human cells. These include benzoic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and malic acid. Any of these can be used to stabilize nic salts.
  • Freebase nicotine is derived from natural nicotine salts by chemically modifying them into the purest nicotine form.
  • The modified nic salts have boosted acidity that makes them more easily vaporized and capable of delivering high nicotine doses without hurting the throat.

Characteristics of Nic Salts

  • Nic salts are absorbed faster into the bloodstream.
  • Nic salts can be vaped at high concentrations, usually up to 50 mg/ml, without being harsh to the throat. Although some countries have regulated nic salt concentration and capped it at a maximum of 20mg.
  • Modified nic salts vaporize at lower temperatures and are more stable
  • The stability in nic salts increases their shelf life due to lower oxidation.
  • The pH is significantly reduced which smoothens the throat sensation when vaping.
  • The complexity of flavor used with nic salts is limited.
  • You won’t get huge clouds from vaping with nic salts since they need low-power devices. Big clouds are possible with high-power devices which can only use freebase nicotine-based e-liquids.
  • Nic salts can achieve the cigarette nicotine hit without using too much e-juice. That is possible because nic salts are available at high concentrations.

Other Nic Salts Facts

Nic salts e-liquids only come in high-strength options. They are usually presented in varying PG/VG ratios, but mostly, the 50:50 PG/VG ratio is common.

While nic salts can be modified with different types of organic acids that are natural to the human body, most manufacturers use benzoic acid.

Nic salts are potentially more addictive due to their high concentration. They are also absorbed faster into the bloodstream, meaning that they initiate neurochemical reactions faster.

What is Freebase Nicotine?

Freebase nicotine has been around the longest in vaping products.

Freebase refers to the purest form of nicotine derived from naturally occurring nicotine salts from tobacco leaves.

Philip Morris International in the 1960s set out to create a more enjoyable and purer nicotine form. Freebasing is achieved by stripping the protons from nic salts using ammonia. Raising the pH deprotonates the natural nicotine salt into a free base.

Freebase nicotine has been used in cigarettes, e-liquids, and other nicotine-based products like gums, patches, and nicotine porches.

Philip Morris used their freebase nicotine discovery to enhance the kick of their Marlboro cigarettes. Scientists have provided evidence that nicotine is a very addictive chemical. Enhancing its potency by freebasing it made Marlboro cigarettes even more addictive. That is how the Phillip Morris company made a breakthrough.

The breakthroughs in technology and the advent of e-cigarettes placed freebase nicotine on the radar of vape liquids manufacturers.

Nicotine has some features that make it ideal for vaping and the best alternative for different vaping requirements. Let’s talk more about those features.

Characteristics of Freebase Nicotine

  • Freebase nicotine achieves a throat hit that increases in intensity in higher concentration. However, the nicotine strength can only go so far without hurting your throat.
  • The ideal nicotine strength in vape liquids using freebase range from 0-12mg. A higher concentration can be too harsh.
  • The high pH of freebase nicotine is the one responsible for the harsh throat sensation.
  • The purer nicotine form is easier to associate even with the most subtle flavors. The complexity of flavors used with freebase e-juice is unlimited.
  • The throat hit experienced with freebase nicotine vape liquid resembles that of traditional e-cigarettes. Vapers seeking to simulate that sensation find freebase nicotine more enjoyable. However, when it comes to the nicotine concentration and satisfying the craving, the user might need more vape liquid or switch to nic salts.
  • The nature of freebase nicotine prevents it from absorbing faster into the bloodstream. It might take some time before this nicotine form activates your neurochemical receptors. That means more intense vaping to reach the ideal blood nicotine concentration to start feeling the effect.
  • The freebase form is susceptible to oxidation making vape liquids have a shorter shelf life.
  • The freebase form of nicotine has a higher vaporizing temperature making it ideal to use with high-power devices. That also means huge clouds when used with high VG e-liquids.
  • The Freebase nicotine production process is not complicated, hence these e-liquids are less expensive by volume. However, using freebase e-liquids to satisfy a more aggressive nicotine craving can be expensive. Nic salts are better suited for that.

Freebase nicotine has been around the longest. Vape liquid manufacturers have found ways to create ideal portions with varying vaping potential. The best thing is that you can never exhaust the available options in the market. You just have to find the best product for you that satisfies your urges.

In the hunt for the best e-liquids to use with your vaping device, it is necessary to understand the key differences between nic salts and freebase nicotine. You need to understand what nic salts do to your body and how its alternative works too.

Key differences between nic salts and freebase nicotine

  • Nic salts are acidic and modified into their more stable state using acids like benzoic acid. Freebase nicotine on the other hand is alkaline, modified using ammonia.
  • Nic salts have a longer shelf life, vaporizes under low temperatures, and are available at high concentration. Freebase nicotine e-liquids are more prone to oxidation and hence have a shorter life, vaporize under relatively higher temperatures, and are available at the lowest concentrations.
  • Nic salts have a smoother throat sensation even at high concentrations. High freebase concentration is harsher due to its alkaline nature and may cause a sore throat after longer exposures.
  • You will have faster nicotine satisfaction with nic salts than with freebase due to the difference in their absorption rate.

Nic salts vs freebase - which is the right one for you?

Both nic salts and freebase e-juice have their ideal usage situations.

When to use nic salts

  • Those transitioning from smoking cigarettes or those with a stronger craving for nicotine need it at a higher concentration. Nic salts are the best suited for such vapers.
  • Switch to nic salts if freebase e-juice hurts your throat. Nic salts give a more gentle throat sensation.
  • MTL vaping method is best suited for low-power devices and nic salts. Nicotine salts are vaporized faster even at lower temperatures. Regular vapes can comfortably use nic salts.
  • You will use less vape juice with nic salts than freebase e-liquids to achieve nicotine satisfaction.
  • Devices using nic salts are cheaper and not overly technical. A user with a lower vaping budget can benefit more from using nic salts.

When to use freebase nicotine

  • High-power vape mods and those with sub-ohm coils vaporize e-liquids at higher temperatures. Only freebase nicotine is stable enough to be used at such power.
  • Cloud chasers should use freebase nicotine with their high-power devices and high VG concentrations.
  • Freebase nicotine allows maximum flavor complexity. If flavor and other factors are more important than nicotine concentration, then use freebase nicotine e-liquids.
  • You can use freebase nicotine for both DTL and MTL vaping.

Whichever e-liquid you choose to use, remember to use the right vaping device. That is what determines the kind of experience you get.

Vape Lab specializes in bringing you both e-liquids and vaping devices. We are the source of the best quality vaping products, making our store the one-stop shop for all your vaping requirements.

You can order both nic salts and freebase e-liquids online at our vape shop. We offer free vape delivery in Nairobi in minutes.

Learn more about vaping and our products at our resource center.


Published on 23 Jan, 2023