Propylene glycol. Vegetable glycerin. As a vaper, you’ve probably heard these words tossed around a million times. But do you really understand what they are and what they mean for you? We’re here to shed some light on the specifics of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, the differences between them, and how they work in e-liquids around the globe.
Propylene glycol - or its more technical name, propane-1,2-diol - is a liquid alcohol that’s used as a solvent for too many products to count. Propylene glycol, or PG for short, is created through a process of fermentation of yeast and other carbohydrates. You may have heard frightening statements such as, “propylene glycol is used in antifreeze, and therefore isn’t safe for consumption”, but that’s not true whatsoever. While propylene glycol is used as a solvent in antifreeze, it’s also used as a storage agent for foods, plastics, and other industries that deal with consumption or health. In vaping, PG is used as a solvent to store e-liquids while retaining flavor for long periods of time.
Vegetable glycerin, also known as VG, is a more natural liquid solvent. Produced from extracts of plant oils such as palm, soy, or coconut, vegetable glycerin is used heavily in the food industry as a solvent to deliver sweetness and moisture to various products. Other products like lotions and shampoos use the naturally occurring compound as a humectant - something that attracts moisture to whatever it is applied to. In vaping, vegetable glycerin is also used to store e-liquids. However, it’s usually used in flavors that require more sweetness or flavors that should produce more vapor.
So what’s the difference between VG and PG, and why do you hear so many arguments about the two chemicals? Well, it comes down to a few key factors. The major factors that vapers argue about in relation to the ingredients used are all related to each other in multiple ways. Propylene glycol is used extensively in flavors that are substitutes for nicotine, as it provides a more “realistic” throat hit, according to traditional smokers who have transitioned to vaping. Propylene glycol also carries synthetic flavorings in a more true manner than vegetable glycerin, not changing the tastes over time as vegetable glycerin might. Vegetable glycerin tends to give a smoother and less realistic throat hit. As previously mentioned, it is significantly sweeter, meaning that flavors suspended in VG are more likely to be on the sweeter side. However, it produces significantly thicker and robust vapor, so it’s perfect for the cloud chasers out there.
Now, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin were previously used as single suspension liquids for e-juices. In more recent years, however, VG and PG have been used in conjunction in various e-liquids. Ratios of VG to PG are something you will probably hear vapers talking about pretty regularly, as e-liquids will offer huge ranges of ratios to satisfy the urges of many vapers. Bringing it back to the differences in VG and PG will help clear up why some vapers want certain ratios of the two in their e-liquids. Having VG and PG in e-liquids will compliment and bring out certain tastes in the flavors. Simultaneously, the hit will be both smooth and robust, and each pull will produce more vapor that is easily obtained than from a liquid that only contains one of the two compounds. Usually, an 80-20 ratio of one to the other will be used. This ratio signifies that either the vaper is looking for a strong throat hit with original flavors and a tiny bit of added sweetness (i.e. an 80-20 PG to VG ratio), or a huge cloud with a much sweeter flavor and a smoother throat hit (an 80-20 VG to PG ratio). Some vapers will even look for a 50-50 ratio, to get the best of both worlds.
Now that you know what VG and PG are, you can be a more educated vaper. Vapers will always discuss their preferences for vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol in their e-liquids. While you should take their advice, experiment for yourself. Neither chemical is harmful to you, and only you can figure out what ratio is perfect for your vaping sensibilities.