Chances are that you’ll run across the terms “propylene glycol” and “vegetable glycerin” at least once while browsing for your first e-cigarette. When you begin browsing e-liquid boutiques, though, you’ll see the terms on nearly every website.
To maintain the e-smoking experience most suited for your tastes, it’s important to understand what e-liquid vendors are talking about when they say “propylene glycol” or “PG” and “vegetable glycerin” or “VG.”
What are PG and VG?
E-liquid has a few obvious components to it like nicotine and flavor ingredients. The ingredients that you likely don’t know about are the ones that carry everything else and make for a rich e-smoking experience.
The carrier acts as a base and suspends the nicotine and ingredients that make up the flavor of your e-liquid. When heat is applied, the carrier vaporizes and allows you to have that satisfying puff.
Propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG) are the two types of carriers used in e-liquids. Both are non-toxic in humans and rated as safe for consumption. This, coupled with their ability to carry flavors and to emulsify with other ingredients, is why they’re used so commonly in e-liquids.
Are PG and VG Safe?
PG and VG are both recognized by the Federal Drug Administration as “Generally Recognized as Safe” for consumption. They’re ingredients common in food and cosmetic products. The one key difference is that you’re not vaporizing and then inhaling them. The problem with PG vs. VG is that there’s no conclusive evidence that shows whether vaporizing these substances is safe or harmful.
Unfortunately, there is no concise answer to this question at this time, which is why it’s always a good idea to stay up-to-date with any e-cigarette safety studies you can find.
What Makes PG-Based E-Liquids Better?
Propylene glycol has a thinner consistency than vegetable glycerin. This gives e-liquids that use just PG as a carrier has the ability to work better with e-cigarettes like the eGo-Tank that require liquid to travel through a small opening before reaching the heating coil.
Besides that, PG has the ability to create a vapor with a relatively thin mouth feel. This allows an e-liquid using just PG to have more vivid and defined flavors than one using just VG.
What Makes VG-Based E-Liquids Better?
Pure vegetable glycerin has a subtle sweetness to it when tasted. You’ll discover that this quality can make more subtle notes of flavor a difficult to detect when vaporized.
You’ll also find that the vapor produced by VG is thicker than vapor produced by PG. This may also give you a feeling that e-liquids containing VG produce more vapor and thus resemble real cigarettes more closely.
Choosing the Right E-Liquid: PG vs. VG
Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are similar, but each carrier has unique properties. To further accentuate this point, some people may prefer vegetable glycerin simply because it’s a natural product while propylene glycol is a synthetic chemical. Others might prefer it because PG has a tendency to cause allergies to flare up and some smokers are sensitive to it.
If you’re prone to any of these conditions, experience severe dryness or any other adverse reactions when using PG-based e-liquids, then it’s our recommendation to try switching to VG-based e-liquids.
For most e-smokers, though, we’ve found that the ideal e-liquid will contain a mixture of PG and VG. Black Note, for example, uses a 50-50 mix of VG and PG. When mixed together, VG can provide a thicker vapor while PG wicks faster and allows for more accurate flavor reproduction. Every vendor that combines PG and VG in its e-liquids offers a slightly different mix, but we’ve found that most e-liquid companies tend toward a mix of 80 percent PG and 20 percent VG.