Things to know about E-Liquid & Vaping

The difference between PG and VG in E-liquid

what is the difference between PG and VG in E-Liquid

Today we want to talk about the two basic ingredients that you can find in E-Liquid: Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG). Both of them are very important in the vape juices. The ratio of these two can decide what the E-liquid will feel like in your mouth and throat. Especially newbies to vaping are often confused what those two ingredients mean and what effect a different ratio between those two can mean for your vaping experience.

What is Propylene Glycol (PG) in vape juice?

It is important to us to talk about this substance, because through the internet and media, you can find some news saying that PG is not safe, that it is used in anti-freeze products and so on. Today we want to show you what PG is and also want to show you that these negative statements are often based on a misconception about Propylene Glycol.

Propylene glycol is a synthetic product, also known under the name 1,2 propandiol. It has no odor, no color and only a light sweet taste. The consistency of the propylene glycol is a bit thicker than water and is also often confused with ethylene glycol.

You will be surprised in how many products of your daily life you can find PG. Propylene glycol is not only part of the e-liquid you vape, but also in many different products such as medicine, food, hair products and so on.

Because of it having nearly no taste and no color, it is perfect for the use in different products. In e-juice it is perfect, because you can combine it easily with different aromas without getting a weird looking color of the juice.

The Propylene Glycol is obtained by hydrating propylene oxid. The then obtained Propylene Glycol has two alcohol groups ( which is called “-diol” in chemical words). Propylene Glycol (and glycols in general) are considered to be safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore Propylene Glycol has been used as a food additive for many years.

Is Propylene Glycol (PG) safe to vape?

Now, first let us talk about one of the most important things, and that is the question if PG is safe to vape or if it is toxic for humans and animals. We will talk a bit about animals as well, because we know that many of you vapers have a cat, a dog etc. at home and want to be sure, that the liquids you vape are safe for you as well as your pets.

As we have already pointed out shortly in the section above, you can find PG in many different products of your daily life. One of the products that contain PG is food. You can find it as a food additive in food for human as well as dogs. It is not contained in cat food, because there have been links to cats getting the Heinz body formation. The Heinz body formation is a change of the hemoglobin in the blood which leads to an early dead of the red cells in the cat body.

Propylene glycol has been used as a food additive for many, many years and so far there have been no studies that showed, that it is dangerous for humans. That’s why it is considered to be safe by the Food and Drug Administration, no matter if it is consumed orally, being in certain pharmaceutical drugs like lorazepam or diazepam or being absorbed by the skin because it is contained in certain skin products.

Although Propylene Glycol has nearly no irritating effects on the body, there are studies that have shown incidences where people have gotten a contact dermatitis due to the PG inside of certain products.

When looking at the toxicity, there has only been one case reported of a man having a PG toxicity due to an excessive alcohol consume. But as you can see, the reason was not the PG itself, but the unhealthy amount of alcohol this man has consumed.

So far most of the studies have been focused on the orally and intravenous ingestion and not on the ingestion as an aerosol, which is the form you take it in when vaping an electronic juice. We suppose that in the future there will be more studies about PG and how it affects the body, when consumed as an aerosol.

What are the characteristics of PG?

The reason why PG is used in so many different products of our daily lives is, that it has the ability to retain water and to make substances, that are normally insoluble, get soluble. We find this especially in pharmaceutical drugs, PG serves here as a solvent and carrier.

Another benefit of Propylene Glycol is, that it can depress (lower) the freezing point of water. The mechanism is the same as you know it from salt on the streets. When the streets are icy, the salt lowers the freezing point of the frozen water, which then leds to a melting of the snow/ice.

The same effect has Propylene Glycol, that’s why it is used in some antifreeze products. The question is now, why have there been scary stories about antifreeze being toxic to humans due to the PG inside?

Is the PG in antifreeze toxic?

As we have already pointed out, there have been some bad news about PG and anti-freeze being toxic for humans. That’s why some people think that PG itself is toxic for humans and therefore think, that vaping is also bad.

Now, what is this all about? It is correct, that PG is used in anti-freeze products, but, here it comes, not in all of them.

The reason that there are some scary stories about PG in antifreeze is, that PG is often confused with Ethylene Glycol. Ethylene glycol has a totally different effect on the human body. In fact, Ethylene Glycol is highly toxic to the human body. Because Ethylene Glycol is bad and toxic for the body, there are two types of antifreeze. One uses PG as an ingredient, the other uses Ethylene glycol.

PG is often used as a substitute for Ethylene glycol in antifreeze. Thus antifreeze using PG instead of Ethylene glycol has a low toxicity and are friendly to the environment.

Because people sometimes mix these two up, there have been scary stories about PG in antifreeze being bad for the human body. Let us remember, PG has been used for many years in different types of products, such as in food as a food additive, and is seen by the FDA as ‘generally save” and non-toxic when digested.

Propylene Glycol is often confused with Ethylene Glycol, which is highly toxic for the human body. The FDA, as well as the European Union, consider PG to be “generally safe” to be consumed orally and intravenously.

In which products is PG used?

You can find a broad variety of different products that contain Propylene Glycol. Here are some examples of products you probably use on a daily basis that contain Propylene Glycol.

  • Human food/Dog food: In many different kinds of food, such as industrial produced cakes etc., PG helps that the ingredients inside don’t clump together.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs: For example lorazepam and diazepam use PG as a solvent.
  • Artificial tears
  • Cosmetics
  • Smoke in special effects, discos and so on
  • Whipped dairy
  • Vape juice of e-cigarettes

Why is PG used in E-liquid?

If you are already vaping and have looked at the ingredients, you already know that PG is one of the main ingredients used in vape juice. Now we want to talk about the reason why PG is one of the main ingredients used in E-liquid. Being a nearly colorless and odor-free substance makes it especially easy to be used as a base in an e-liquid. But that is not the main reason.

The main reason it is perfect for the use in e-liquid is, that it serves as a carrier for nicotine, when it is heated up enough it becomes an aerosol. This aerosol is the smoke you see coming out of the e-cigarette.

The effect is the same as you know it from going out to festivals, concerts or any other place, where artificial smoke is used. A heating system inside these smoke machines heats up the Propylene Glycol-water mixture and the famous smoke emerges.

Advantages when using PG in your e-cigarette

There are some advantages, when you are vaping PG, which we will show you now:

  • Flavor stays the same: The benefit of vaping a higher ratio of PG or even 100% Propylene Glycol is, that the flavor of the aroma doesn’t get diluted. Thus you can enjoy the full aroma of your liquid.
  • Stronger throat hit: If you love a strong throat hit when vaping, then PG is for you. The higher the amount of PG in your liquid, the more you get the sensation of that hit in your throat.
  • Thinner consistency: Propylene Glycol is a bit thicker than water, but still has a thinner consistency than Vegetable Glycerin. The thin consistency makes it possible, that the e-liquid can get easily absorbed by the cotton inside your e-cigarette.
  • Less clogging: The thin consistency has another advantage, and that is, that the heating element inside your vaporizer does not get clogged up so fast, as it does happen with VG.
  • Allergy Risk: The Allergy Risk is, as we have already discussed, very low. That’s why it is normally suitable for every one. So far, no severe cases have been reported. But contact allergies against PG are documented, so if you discover some strange sensations or a dermatitis when vaping Propylene Glycol, then you may want to try to switch over to VG.

What can happen when vaping PG?

This question is especially interesting for those of you, who have not yet vaped and are considering changing from a normal cigarette to an e-cigarette. Obviously the sensation you have when vaping an e-cigarette or smoking a real cigarette is different. In the following we want to show you, what kind of differences or sensations you may discover.

As we have already pointed out, the usual PG-VG ratio in the e-liquids is 50:50. Due to the PG inside the vape juices, vaping can be, in the beginning, a bit irritating to the throat. This should pass after a few days, if not, you can try to lower the PG amount in your liquid and test again, if you have the same sensation.

A very common side effect of vaping is the feeling of dehydration. You can get sensations like a dry mouth, more thirst than usual or a sore throat. All of these symptoms are normal, when the reason is the vape juice. The best advice is, to drink more water in the beginning and see, if the sensations subside. If they don’t, you can try a higher ratio of VG than PG.

Please be aware, that the symptoms mentioned above also can occur due to having quit smoking. 

As we have already discussed, in all those years of PG being in our lives worldwide, only slight allergies have been reported. So far, only a contact dermatitis has been reported. If you feel any other unpleasant symptoms, it may be, that you have a slight allergy to PG.

If any of these symptoms stay for a longer period of time or get worse, please always seek for a medical advice.

What kind of PG quality is used for vaping?

Due to the many scary news about teenagers having died or having had other dramatical problems, we want to talk about the quality of the PG. As with everything, the quality is very important. If you are buying liquid for your e-cigarette, then it is important that you only buy high-quality products, that have no other bad things mixed in.

In this case we can just talk about our liquids or the e-liquids used in Europe. Here in Europe by law we have to use high-quality PG. For that reason you only find PG in European E-liquids that have a pharmaceutical quality, which means they have a 99,9 % pureness.

What is Vegetable Glycerin?

Now we want to talk about the other main part of e-liquids and that is the Vegetable Glycerin. Vegetable Glycerin is a sugar-alcohol. It is a clear liquid with a syrup-like consistency. It has no real taste other than that it tastes slightly sweet, which is perfect for the use in e-liquids.

It is produced by heating up triglyceride-rich vegetable fats. Typically it is made of soybean, palm oils or coconut oils. As well as Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin has been used for many decades, especially as a food additive or in the cosmetic industry.

Vegetable Glycerin got its first significant attention in the 1800s, when it was first used to make dynamite. Later on, due to its possible health benefits, it started to get used in the cosmetic industry as well as in foods. Just like the PG, VG also plays a big role as a food additive. Used in food or pharmaceutical drugs, VG can help to mix oil- with water-based ingredients.

What products contain Vegetable Glycerin?

Now let’s talk about the products, that contain Vegetable Glycerin. We will show you just some examples because the amount of products that contain VG is very high.

  • Toothpaste: Vegetable Glycerin is often used in toothpaste, because it prevents the toothpaste from drying out too fast and get hard.
  • Food additive: As a food additive, VG can help mixing different ingredients together and holding them in suspension. In ice cream it prevents ice crystals from forming. That’s why you can find VG for example in low fat frozen yoghurts.
  • E-liquids: Vegetable Glycerin is the main reason, why you get the nice vapour, when vaping. The more VG your e-juice contains, the more vapour you will get.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs: Vegetable Glycerin is used for example in some heart medications.
  • Other products are: candles, lotions and soaps

Is Vegetable Glycerin safe to vape?

As with the Propylene Glycol, we will now discuss the question, if Vegetable Glycerin is safe to vape. Vegetable Glycerin is considered to be generally safe by the FDA to be ingested orally, be used in pharmaceutical drugs as well as being applied to the skin. You can find VG in many non-vaping products of your daily life.

So far it is known, that Vegetable Glycerin has a very low allergy risk. Because of that, it is used by people who have an allergy to Propylene Glycol.

But we also need to point out, that until now there have been no considerable studies on the affects VG can have, when inhaled as an aerosol. So to be a hundred percent sure, there definitely need to be more researches on that.

What to expect when vaping VG

When you start vaping a higher ratio of VG or even 100% VG, there can be some side effects. What these side effects are is what we will discuss now.

  • Less allergy risk: Even with PG the allergy risk is very low, but there have been incidences in which people have had a slight allergical reaction to PG. In these cases they are advised to vape VG instead, because so far there have been no allergies to VG documented. If you know that you have a PG-allergy, then you can substitute it easily with VG.
  • Less strong: There are people who don’t like a strong throat hit when vaping. If you are one of them, then you should always go for a higher amount of VG in your liquid than PG. Vegetable Glycerin has a “smoothness” to it and it will make the vapour in your mouth feel a bit “thicker”.
  • More vapour: The less throat hit comes hand in hand with a higher amount of vapour. If you like to be surrounded by a cloud of vapour when you exhale, then make sure that you have a high amount of VG in your e-liquid.
  • Not suitable for every vaporizer: Vegetable Glycerin is tremendously thicker than PG. It can not be absorbed as fast and easily by the cotton in your vaporizer than Propylene Glycol. Especially older e-cigarettes can not handle the thick consistency of the VG. If you have an older model it is not advised to use a high amount of VG in the e-liquids you like to vape.
  • Fast clogging up: The thick consistency has another disadvantage and that is, that the heating element inside your vaporizer clogs up pretty fast. The higher the amount of VG in your e-liquids, the fast the heating element gunks up, which means, the more cleaning you have to do. If you don’t mind that and prefer a lot of vapour around you, then maybe this is no problem for you.
  • Sweet taste: Vegetable Glycerin has a slight sweet taste to itself. That’s why it is especially perfect for sweet or fruit flavors, such as a strawberry e-liquid or an e-liquid with a cherry flavour.

Vegetable Glycerin is healthy?

This one may be a bit surprising, but to make this article complete, we wanted to talk about this fact as well and that is that Vegetable Glycerin may have positive effects on the body, when applied on the skin. One of the health benefits and the reason why it is used in cosmetic products is, that it can moisturize the skin. It seems that it can help to soothe skin irritation as well as enhance the wound healing. To see the studies, please visit the links we have posted down below.

Frequently asked questions about VG and PG

What is the best PG-VG ratio for vaping?

Let’s talk about the best PG-VG ratio for your E-liquids. If you like to vape then you know, that the most common PG-VG ratio used is 50:50. But sometimes it is necessary to change the ratio, to get a better taste or more vapour.

The ratio between those two can decide, how the smoke will feel to you. Normally a higher amount of PG than VG leds to a harsher feeling in the throat, when inhaling it.

The less PG and the more VG you use, the softer the feeling of the vapour on the throat is, also the vapour inside the mouth could feel a bit “thicker” than with a high PG ratio. The usual and “normal” ratio of PG and VG is 50:50. We will make an extra article about how to know, which ratio of VP and PG is best for which use.

I want to have a lot of vapor, what should I do?

Most of the e-liquids you can find, are in the ratio 50:50 of VG and PG. You can say that these are the standard liquids, which are good for normal uses and especially for beginners. If you have specific wishes such as a lot of vapor, then there is some adjustment to be made. In this case you should go for a 70:30 ratio of VG to PG or even 100% VG. The Vegetable Glycerin in the e-liquids is the reason, you get the smoke that you are used of a normal cigarette.

The higher the amount of VG in the e-liquid is, the more vapor your vaporizer can produce. But with a higher amount of VG can come some side effects. Please make sure to read them in the section above to know, what side effects can happen. One of these side effects is, that not every vaporizer is able to use e-liquids with a high amount of VG in it.

Can I mix VG and PG in my e-liquid?

Yes, of course you can, in fact, most of the e-liquids are mixed up with half of Propylene Glycol and half of Vegetable Glycerin. For beginners, you can go with the standard mixture of 50:50. If you have specific wishes, then you can always get the ratio between VG and PG adjusted. Just ask the store where you are buying the liquid, if they can mix you a different ratio. If not, you have to make your own e-liquid-juice.

Other common ratios are:

  • 60% : 40% VG-PG: When this ratio is used, you get more vapour and a good taste of the flavour inside your e-liquid.
  • 70% : 30% VG-PG: This ratio gives you even more vapour, as the VG inside the e-liquid is responsable for the amount of vapor you get. This is the optimum ratio, if you want to have a nice but not too strong throat hit, a lot of vapor and a good amount of flavor.

Where do I get a different ratio of VG and PG in my e-liquid?

Most of the vape stores in Australia and most of the online shops only have the ratio of 50:50 PG-VG. But you can always ask, if they can adjust the ratio and sell you a different ratio. Especially if you look for it online, you will definitely find a vape shop, that will offer you different PG-VG ratios.

If you don’t find a vape shop in Australia or even worldwide, that can offer you a different ratio, then you can mix your own E-liquids. This makes it possible for you, to change the ratio however you want it and you can experiment which ratio suits you best.

Should I use PG or VG in my e-liquids?

If you have read the article so far, then you have already seen the differences between Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin. Especially if you are a beginner, we can understand that all these information can be a bit overwhelming.

Most e-liquids are sold in the ratio 50:50 VG and PG, we think that for the beginning this is the best ratio. With having 50 % of VG and 50% of PG in your e-liquid, you can enjoy the benefits of both liquids. If you want to have a strong throat hit, then go with a higher percentage of PG, if you prefer to have more vapour and not hat much of a throat hit, then go with a higher ratio of VG.

In the end you have a bit of testing to do to see, which ratio suits you and your taste best. If you have just quit smoking and the ratio 50:50 does not feel good to you, you don’t have a throat hit and maybe it does not remind you very much of your former smoking experience, then definitely go with a higher PG amount.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21611683

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7906448

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18498456

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18510666

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26370610