Whether you're new to vaping or consider yourself a veteran, you'll know a key component for your experience is the actual e-liquid. Each vape typically contains flavourings, nicotine (unless you have opted for a nicotine-free option) and either PG, VG or sometimes all of the above.
Once you understand the difference between Vegetable Glycerine (VG) and Propylene Glycol (PG), you can decide on either a mixture or more of one substance in each vape. Each has its own uses - providing a different flavour, strength and texture to create a unique experience.
Like with any product, including what you eat, it is important to know the ingredients you inhale or ingest into your body. That's so you recognise if it’s safe and what affects it may have.
Without PG or VG, there would be no vapour. So, what’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look and compare.
What is Vegetable Glycerine?
Vegetable Glycerine is an alcohol-based liquid, made from palm oil, soybean or coconut. If you check the ingredients label on a variety of products, you’ll see it has multiple purposes. This includes acting as a sweetener or moisturising agent in plenty of products, such as in soaps, cough remedies and toothpaste.
Also, it acts as a prevention of crystalising in frozen items, such as ice cream or frozen yoghurt. Because of the sweeter taste you get from this substance, it’s a welcome part of vaping that also helps to produce the thick vapour.
What Does Propylene Glycol Do?
Propylene Glycol is awarded the title of an organic compound because of its carbon particles. Acting like VG as a colourless liquid, it has much less of a sweet taste (practically zero) and is classed as a mild food additive.
A man-made synthetic product, PG tends to be of a thinner consistency when compared to its counterpart VG. PG also has several uses for other products. For instance, it helps to strengthen dough, as well as preventing liquids such as vinegar from separating.
For vapers, PG holds in the flavour and provides the ‘throat hit’ ex-smokers crave. When you exhale, you’ll produce some sort of visible vapour. But in reality, that will be a far cry from the huge thick vapour clouds due to a greater ratio of VG more synonymous with vapers.
The Benefits of Using VG E-Liquid
The most common reason for people choosing VG e-liquid is its capability to produce some seriously huge clouds of vapour. Ever dreamed of entering a cloud-chasing competition? Then this is a great starting point. How is this possible? If the consistency of the liquid is denser, cloud thickens. For more information on cloud chasing, check out our in-depth guide on how to find the right device and much more.
As mentioned, VG is made from vegetable oils and plant material, meaning that it’s completely suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike. There are a few great reasons to opt for a VG-heavy e-liquid:
- Unlike PG, VG is not known to cause an allergic reaction, great for those struggling with PG.
- Less need for additives as a way to ‘boost’ the flavour because VG is 100% natural.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth!
Of course, it should be noted that for anybody who wishes to lead as much of a natural lifestyle as possible, choosing a 100% VG based e-liquid will certainly align with your ethical compass.
The Benefits of Using PG E-Liquid
A high PG vape is really useful for two reasons; it provides a similar sensation to smoking because of its texture, and undoubtedly the flavour. With a smaller VG ratio, PG allows the natural flavours of your e-liquid to come alive. In addition, it means:
- The wicks absorb PG much quicker than the thicker VG liquid.
- PG's thin texture will not build up around the heating element of your vaporiser.
- Less time cleaning your device and more time vaping!
Remember we mentioned that PG retains a lot of moisture? While repetitive vaping of high PG will give you a dry throat, finding the right blend can contribute to your vape satisfaction. Plus, it could help with any potential cigarette cravings too.
Is it Safe to Vape VG?
VG is formed from vegetable fats and plant matter. A completely natural product, VG is similarly clear and odourless, but it does have a slightly sweet aftertaste. Do you want that natural flavour to overpower the e-liquid you select?
Generally, both VG and PG are substances deemed safe by the FDA. As we stated earlier, it's used in several pharmaceutical and food products, which suggests its merits and widespread use. However, bear in mind that it's more related to ingestion than inhalation. Nevertheless, several studies highlight that limited health-related issues are surrounding the toxicity of VG, especially when keeping within specific measures.
The only concerns that are well documented are the thickness of VG liquid leading to occasional sore and dry throat issues, plus dehydration. Keep topped up with water!
Is PG Safe to Vape?
For those worried that the synthetic nature of PG creates a chemical-like taste, that is usually not the case. PG is both tasteless and odourless, meaning that it doesn't interfere with the flavour of your e-liquid at all. As we stated earlier, it’s also considered safe by the FDA and other studies suggest it’s ‘completely harmless’. But that depends on the person too, because some react more than others when vaping PG, as other clinical tests highlight.
It might seem reasonable to think inhaling the vapour through your mouth increases moistness. However, while you might be inhaling a liquid-based vapour, PG actually retains a lot of its moisture. Therefore, if you vape an e-liquid that has a high PG content frequently, you may end up with a dry throat.
PG Allergies: Is VG Safer than PG?
It’s important to know that PG isn’t suitable for everybody. In fact, like nuts, shellfish or wheat, an allergic reaction to PG is possible. Though symptoms and reactions may not be as extreme as the life-threatening anaphylactic shock associated with certain allergies, your reaction to PG may still cause some irritation. Reactions related to PG allergies are reported to include:
- Sinus problems
- Numbness to the face
- Itchy rash, as well as a burning or scratching sensation to your throat
If you’ve been experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, then it may be time to switch e-liquids. A straightforward solution could be trying purely 100% VG based e-liquids.
What's the Best PG/VG Ratio for Vaping?
Are you keen on experiencing maximum flavour, a satisfying throat hit and decent vapour production? It’s important to find the right balance between VG and PG, but this all depends on personal preference. For example, beginner vapers giving up smoking seek a similar sensation, without additional health issues. For most, a greater ratio of PG is the first step.
In contrast, as you get used to the vaping experience, many gradually move away from a higher PG ratio to VG. This is because you get used to a different consistency and way of inhaling the vapour. Ideally, you'll want to find an e-liquid that includes a ratio of 70-60% PG and 30-40% VG initially. Here is a useful rundown of combinations for a beginner or experienced vaper:
100% VG Advantages:
- The thickest clouds imaginable
- E-liquids have longer evaporation due to density
100% VG Disadvantages:
- The flavour from e-liquid or shortfill will be dominated by high VG concentrate
- On a high power setting, you will use more e-liquid or shortfill and battery consumes faster
80% VG/20% PG Advantages:
- Large clouds but with an improved smoother hit
- Fewer dry throat or coughing issues than if you focused on greater PG
80% VG/20% PG Disadvantages:
- Difficult for ex-smokers to adjust initially
- Still a significantly thicker texture
Happy Medium - 50/50 VG and PG:
For many, this is the perfect middle ground. You get the best mixture with a smooth experience - but equally impressive clouds to highlight your style.
80% PG/20% VG Advantages:
- You get a great throat hit, while still achieving mild vapour clouds
- Best adjustment early on for ex-smokers
80% PG/20% VG Disadvantages:
- Potentially leads to hydration issues
- Can still cause a harsh throat hit
100% PG Advantages:
- Intense flavours from your e-liquid, giving you a greater appreciation of your purchase
- Smaller clouds mean less attraction drawn to yourself from non-vapers
100% PG Disadvantages:
- On a low wattage, it's a challenge to burn through the coil, creating enough vapour
- Barely any cloud, plus may feel too similar to smoking
VG: The Ideal Choice for Cloud Chasers
Now you know all the key details about the difference between VG and PG, you need to get the right device. But this is only easy if you know what to look for. Each device has a power wattage maximum, which determines what sort of ratio of PG or VG is suitable. For instance, if you like vaping for the cloud chasing aspect, you’ll need a powerful device with high watts.
In contrast, those who want the perfect 50/50 blend of VG and PG would be best suited to lower wattage products. This is because too much PG on a high wattage can burn through the flavour. The same theory applies to those who vape with nicotine-salt e-liquids. Ideally, you want a sub-ohm device because the tanks are bigger and can support cloud chasing with greater ease.
PG: The Ideal Choice for Former Smokers
On the other end of the scale, leaning towards a higher PG ratio is ideal for those looking to quit smoking. That’s because it’s the closest you’ll get in terms of similarity. The thinner the liquid on a smaller device, the better the flavour. This will mean you’ll enjoy the intense e-liquids and have a thinner substance too. A great option to get a smooth nicotine hit is by choosing a suitable nic salt e-liquid. If you want to find out more about nic salts, read here.
For appearance and comfort, those looking to give up smoking and turn to vaping will seek a familiar feeling. A device similar in shape and draw will tick the right boxes. For example, many turn to pens because of their simple design. Think the opposite of sub-ohm tanks - less bulky, but more compact. That way you can vape with ease, keeping your coil clean because the substance of higher PG is less dense and even less likely to get clogged. The drawback is also similar to smoking, so you get the flavours you bought. A win-win for vaping beginners.
Bonus Tips for Finding Maximum Flavour
- Add a few drops of water to your coil to prevent thicker VG from clogging your device. This is every vapers nightmare!
- Check your airflow adjustment matches your preference. Think more airflow for more vapour - and less airflow for an increased throat hit.
- Keep your e-liquid in a dark space for a few hours or overnight to ensure the blend of PG and VG is just right before vaping.
- Pick a suitable coil, keep it clean and manageable for premium flavours.
- Mix up the choices of e-liquid to avoid vaper’s tongue. The same bland flavour over and over is not desirable.
- Alter the temperature and wattage to find the optimum performance.
Verdict - Why Combining PG & VG Get Our Vote
You’ll find that many e-liquids will have a mixture of both PG and VG. Because you can’t tamper with the balance of PG and VG, key criteria such as choosing the right device all play its part. To achieve the optimum vape, for many the use of PG will allow the flavours of your e-liquid to flourish. Plus, they provide the throat hit that you might be craving as an ex-smoker.
On the other side of the debate, the addition of predominantly VG will add density and visible size to the cloud of vapour you exhale. Ideal for those wanting to be the talk of the party or the envy of fellow vapers! It all comes down to what works for you; using the try and test method until you find the best way to vape is the logical option.
Once you stumble across the perfect blend, all seems right with the world as you hit that magic sweet spot vapers seek.