Most people know that vape juice contains flavorings and, usually, nicotine, but what else is in it?
Two of the most important ingredients are what are known in vaping circles as PG and VG, and to help you understand more about them, in this post, we have everything you need to know about PG vs VG and why they’re essential in vape juice.
What do PG and VG stand for?
Let’s start at the beginning – what do PG and VG stand for?
PG stands for propylene glycol and VG stands for vegetable glycerin.
Although the first ingredients in vape juice you think of might be the flavorings and the nicotine – because, after all, those are the ones you notice most – the bulk of the juice is made up of PG and VG, and these are the ingredients that are doing all the hard work in the background.
We’ll go into the details of what each of these ingredients do more specifically in a moment, but generally speaking, they are there because they turn to aerosol (what we think of as “vapor”) when heated and are able to carry the flavor and nicotine into your mouth and lungs.
If these ingredients were not included, there would be no vaping – simply heating a mixture of flavorings and nicotine would have no effect – and both are included in varying proportions in just about every commercial vape juice you’ll ever buy.
So now let’s dig in a bit deeper into the specific properties of these two vital ingredients.
What does PG do?
PG is a petroleum byproduct. It’s a relatively thin liquid that has no odor or taste of its own. It is commonly used in a range of household products including toothpaste, medical products and cosmetics.
In terms of vaping, PG serves a couple of purposes.
First, it is particularly good at carrying the flavorings when transformed into an aerosol, so it is added to vape juice to ensure the flavor you experience is rich and intense.
Second, however, it is also responsible for the so-called “throat hit” that you experience when inhaling vapor from your device.
Many vapers consider this feeling desirable, especially those moving to vaping as a way of giving up smoking. This is because it replicates the feeling of taking a drag from a cigarette, so many people find it easier to stick to vaping with a good throat hit because it feels like smoking.
Is PG safe?
Since PG is found in many common household products, it has been thoroughly tested and is considered safe for human use and consumption.
However, since the concept of vaping is relatively new, few studies have been carried out on its effects on human health – and no large-scale long-term studies on its use in vapes yet exist.
That said, most experts agree that at worst, inhaling PG is relatively benign – and that in any case, it’s still a lot healthier than inhaling tobacco smoke, which is known to contain over 7,000 harmful compounds.
At the same time, PG is known to cause some more minor unpleasant effects such as a dry mouth and a sore throat – but these can largely be countered by drinking plenty of water to help you stay hydrated.
In some people, vape juices with high levels of PG can also cause allergic reactions, but these cases are quite rare.
What does VG do?
VG is a vegetable derivative. It is more viscous than PG, and it is odorless but with a slightly sweet taste.
However, the main role that VG plays is in the generation of large clouds of vapor – in basic terms, the higher the proportion of VG in a particular vape juice, the bigger the clouds you can expect it to produce.
Is VG safe?
Like PG, VG is found in a whole range of household products including food. This means it’s considered extremely safe for human use and consumption and is extremely unlikely to cause allergic reactions – although VG allergies are not impossible.
However, like PG, few large-scale studies have been carried out on its effect when inhaled, so at the moment, we don’t know for certain that vaping it is harmless in the long term.
The general consensus, though, is that it is unlikely to cause anything like the same kind of damage as tobacco smoke, so vaping it is considered a far healthier option than smoking traditional cigarettes.
Like PG, it can also cause minor side-effects like a dry mouth or sore throat.
What are the best ratios of PG and VG?
PG and VG are present in almost all commercial vape juices that are sold, but what varies is the ratios – by choosing juice with high proportions of PG or VG relative to the other, it can produce vape juices that offer different vaping experiences.
High PG mixes
Since PG is good at carrying the flavors and is also responsible for the throat hit, by choosing mixes that have a higher proportion of PG relative to the VG content, you can expect a more intense flavor and a harsher feeling on your throat.
For most people, higher levels of flavor is something to be desired, but the stronger throat hit comes down to personal preference. However, for those who are vaping as a replacement for tobacco cigarettes, a good throat hit may be considered a positive.
On the flip side, since VG and not PG is mainly responsible for the vapor cloud, choosing a high-PG juice will produce smaller clouds. This could be advantageous if you want to be more discreet in your vaping, but for those who like big clouds, this is considered a negative.
High VG mixes
Mixes containing higher proportions of VG, on the other hand, produce a different kind of vaping experience.
Since VG is not as effective at carrying the flavorings, the taste of a high-VG vape will be less intense.
At the same time, the throat hit will be much weaker, so this is a good option if you don’t like a strong throat hit or prefer a smoother vaping experience.
However, the big advantage of opting for high-VG mixes is the large vapor clouds they can produce, so for cloud chasers, there’s really no other option.
Bear in mind, though, that due to the viscosity of VG, high-VG juices are not suitable for all kinds of vaping devices.
Some devices aimed at beginners may not even work with high-VG juices, and even if they do, the juice may clog the device up faster, requiring more regular maintenance and cleaning while reducing the lifespan of the device and its components in the long run.
When it comes to powerful sub-ohm vapes, though, this kind of vape juice can be used to produce spectacular results, giving off huge clouds of vapor, so for more advanced vapers, experimenting with such juices could be worth considering.
PG vs VG: What’s best for beginners?
If you’re a vaping newbie, you might be wondering which you should go for, and the best advice is to opt for something in the middle – a 50:50 PG:VG mix is usually the right place to start, after which, you can explore other possibilities according to your taste.
The simplest way to do this is to start with a top-end disposable vape such as the Katana BP 10000 from Spiritbar. This vape, inspired by the legendary Japanese katana sword, is perfectly configured for beginners, and there are no complicated settings to worry about.
Instead, you simply pick up the device and start vaping, enjoying high-quality vape juice that is perfectly blended for beginners and experts alike, offering the ideal combination of big clouds and intense flavors along with a 50mg/ml hit of nicotine.
Then, having experienced vaping with simple yet enjoyable devices such as these, you can then consider moving on to other vaping devices if you feel the need to customize the experience further.
Are there any substitutes for PG or VG?
Currently, there are no known viable substitutes for PG or VG, which is why they remain so ubiquitous in vape juices around the world.
Some people have tried experimenting with polyethylene glycol 400 in the place of PG, and although it shows some promise, PG-based juices still dominate the market.
Conversely, when it comes to VG, no safe substitute is known, so VG is found in just about every juice you’ll ever vape.
Theoretically, it is possible to make a vape juice with 100% VG and no PG, and this would result in huge clouds with little flavor and no throat hit. However, most vapers would find such a mix thoroughly unsatisfying.
On the other hand, a mix with 100% PG and no VG would be practically unvapeable, and this is not something you’re ever likely to come across unless you mix it up yourself.
Inescapable ingredients that vary according to the desired effect
As we’ve seen, PG and VG are found in almost all vape juices, so if you vape, you’re likely to become very familiar with both of them.
Although it’s not really feasible to make vape juice without PG or VG, the relative proportions can be varied to create different results, so the best thing to do is to experiment with different types of juice to find the perfect blend of PG and VG for your tastes.