Propylene glycol (PG) is one of two common substances combined with nicotine and flavoring to create vape juice. Some formulas use only PG, some use only vegetable glycerin (VG), and some use a combination of these two ingredients. PG or VG is a carrier liquid and makes up about 90 percent of an e-liquid formula. The other 10 percent is composed of nicotine, flavorings, and other additives. These ingredients are food grade, which means they've been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe to consume. When heated to between 200 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the e-liquid becomes vapor that can be inhaled just like cigarette smoke, without the associated carcinogens. This makes it a popular choice for those who are trying to quit smoking. If you're a vape enthusiast, here's what you need to know about the risks and benefits of inhaling vapor that contains propylene glycol.
What Is Propylene Glycol?
Propylene glycol is a colorless, odorless byproduct of petroleum. This liquid, which is just a bit thicker than water, is often used as the base for vape juice formulas. In addition to its use in e-juice, PG is found in pet food, cosmetics, topical and oral medications, and asthma inhalers. The paint and plastics industries use this ingredient as a solvent. PG can be used to help food particles, such as in packaged grated cheese, from sticking to one another. It acts as a preservative by protecting foods from deterioration caused by exposure to oxygen. PG can be used as a carrier for additives or nutrients, such as antioxidants and natural or artificial colors or flavors. Sometimes PG is used to prevent ingredients from separating, such as the oil and vinegar in bottled salad dressings. It keeps foods from drying out and adds stability to dough and other products with gluten. PG can also be used to stabilize, texturize, thicken, and process various foods. Although PG is technically a type of alcohol, it does not have the intoxicating effect of liquor. It's part of a chemical categorization known as sugar alcohol.
Is PG Safe To Vape?
Image via Flickr by the Electric Tobacconist Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate e-liquids, propylene glycol has been categorized as "generally safe for use in food" by the FDA. This classification has been in effect since 1973. PG has long been used to create artificial smoke and fog for stage productions and in firefighting training demonstrations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no health risks have been associated with the inhalation of PG in these circumstances. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume no more than 11.4 mg of propylene glycol per pound of body weight each day. The only recorded case of PG toxicity occurred in an individual who was consuming 213 grams of PG each day, more than 100 times the recommended limit. Some controversy has arisen about the safety of PG in food because it is also a component of antifreeze. This has led to confusion with a dangerous toxic chemical called ethylene glycol, which is also used in antifreeze. However, ethylene glycol is not the same as PG and is not approved for use in food products as PG is. PG has not been associated with the development of cancer, damage to fertility and/or reproductive organs, or genetic damage. Approximately 45 percent of PG consumed in food will be excreted by the kidneys. The body converts the remainder to lactic acid, which is also produced naturally by the muscles and red blood cells. People with kidney disease should avoid consumption of PG, since lactic acid toxicity can occur. Pregnant women and children under the age of 4 may also be at risk for toxicity because of limited kidney function. Poisoning associated with PG is rare and is treated with hemodialysis. It typically occurs when a person consumes large amounts of medications that contain PG. If you're concerned about toxicity and other side effects associated with PG, keep in mind that this substance is commonly used in processed foods. Sticking to a diet of fresh foods boosts your nutrition intake and helps you avoid exposure to PG. You can also choose VG-based e-liquids if you want to avoid PG exposure. Some animal studies have been done to look at the safety of inhaled PG. Overall, this research has shown no substantial risk when rats and dogs were exposed to vapor and/or smoke containing PG for time frames ranging from four days to nine months.
Benefits of PG E-Juice
PG is less oily than VG and provides a smoother, more comfortable hit. Its thinner consistency means that it's absorbed into the wick of the atomizer more quickly for fast, efficient heating. However, those who want to produce huge clouds of vapor often prefer VG-heavy blends. PG is flavorless and won't clog the inside of your vaporizer. VG is thicker and has a distinctive sweet taste that some find interferes with the true e-juice flavor. Like PG, it's both colorless and odorless. However, it tends to leave residue behind, which means that your vape components will need to be disassembled and cleaned more frequently. Some older vapes have a difficult time handling VG-heavy e-liquids and may need to be replaced after frequent use of these blends. Many former smokers find that the moist texture of PG vape juices provide a closer experience to smoking, which helps them stop using tobacco permanently. This quality is sometimes referred to as the amount of "throat hit" that an e-juice provides. If you want to be able to vape discreetly, it's best to choose vape juices with a high percentage of PG. Since these blends don't create large clouds, it's easier to keep your puffs private. The type of e-liquid you choose also depends on the type of vaporizer you prefer. Clearomizers are designed for use with 50/50 PG/VG blends. RDA and dripper set-ups work best with 30 percent PG/70 percent VG solutions. Sub ohm vape mods use VG-only solutions.
The Risks of PG E-Juice
PG can cause throat irritation and/or allergic reactions with some users. Up to 3.5 percent of individuals are allergic to PG, according to the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Occasionally, vapers who are allergic to PG experience a rash known as dermatitis, which causes minor skin irritation. You are more likely to be allergic to PG if you have other skin conditions, such as eczema or contact dermatitis. If you experience a rash or mild throat irritation after vaping PG e-liquid, switch to a VG e-liquid formula. You might have a dry mouth or feel thirsty when you vape liquids containing PG. Drinking plenty of water can help mitigate these side effects. In rare cases, PG consumption has been associated with nausea, seizures, vertigo, and other neurological symptoms. However, these incidents were attributed to the use of injectable medications containing PG and not to inhaling PG-based e-liquid vapor. Some users find e-liquids that contain PG to be messy. PG-heavy formulas also tend to vaporize more quickly than VG-only formulas, which means you'll use a higher volume of e-juice. E-juices containing PG can be toxic to animals, including cats. Keep your stash safely locked away if you live in a home with furry friends.
Best PG E-Liquid Brands
Some of our favorite PG-based e-liquid products include:
- Vanilla Dream E-Liquid by Lizard Juice is available in your choice of high-PG or high-VG varieties. It also comes in capacities of 15 milliliters, 30 milliliters, and 60 milliliters. Nicotine levels for this formula range from 0 milligrams to 18 milligrams. As for the taste, it's similar to a sweet and creamy vanilla custard. You'll be dreaming of your grade school lunchbox pudding snacks.
- Another option from Lizard Juice available in a high-PG or high-VG variety is the Rapture Vape Juice. This blend has a fresh strawberries and cream flavor that's reminiscent of your favorite summer dessert. Bottle sizes and nicotine strengths are the same as in the Vanilla Dream variety.
- Juishy E-Juice is available in 70 percent PG/30 percent VG and 30 percent PG/70 percent VG blends. Whichever option you prefer, you can choose from flavors ranging from blueberry and kiwi strawberry to frosted cookies, root beer, lemonade tea, and many more creative choices. Many blends have an edge of tobacco for the former smoker. An unflavored version of this product is also available. Juishy is available in nicotine strengths ranging from 0 milligrams to 24 milligrams.
- EC Blend sells premium artisan e-liquids that are completely customizable, right down to the composition of your base liquid. You can select the size of your bottle, ranging from 5 milliliters to 250 milliliters; the nicotine strength, ranging from 0 milligrams to 36 milligrams; the PG percentage in your base liquid, ranging from 30 percent to 100 percent; and any combination of flavor shots. You can also shop for premade flavors and blends, including favorites created by other customers.
How To Shop For Vape Juice
Whether you opt for PG-only formulas, VG-only formulas, or juices that blend the two, it's important to buy your vaping solution from a reputable company. With so many manufacturers on the market, it can be difficult to find the most trustworthy e-juice producers. First, choose your ideal PG/VG ratio. Many juices use a 50/50 blend, so you might want to start there. You can opt for VG solutions if you end up wanting thicker vapor clouds or you notice skin irritation after vaping. Go for PG if you want to create a more intense flavor. If you plan to use vaping as a substitute for smoking cigarettes, you'll also want to consider nicotine content. Those who do not smoke cigarettes but want to enjoy the relaxing hobby of vaping can opt for nicotine-free e-juices. These formulas can also be infused with your flavor or herb of choice for a customizable experience. Although nicotine strengths vary by brand, you'll usually find low-nicotine formulas ranging from 0 to 6 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter, medium formulas with 6 to 12 mg/ml, and high-nicotine products with more than 12 mg/ml. E-juice bottles are labeled with the amount of nicotine they contain. To eliminate nicotine withdrawal symptoms you might experience when switching from cigarettes, experts recommend starting with a higher nicotine level and gradually reducing to a level where you are comfortable. Some former smokers are able to reduce cravings and eventually go completely nicotine-free. Another choice to make is whether you prefer a single-flavored vape juice or a blend. Single flavors run the gamut from common choices such as strawberry and vanilla to formulas inspired by donuts, cakes, candies, and other sweets. Blends mix several flavors for a complex, customized experience. For example, a tropical blend might combine banana, coconut, and pineapple flavors. Many former smokers prefer e-juices that taste like tobacco, or even tobacco blended with menthol, to serve as a more realistic cigarette replacement. You can even find sweet or fruity flavors that add a splash of tobacco to the mix for a hint of that familiar taste. Another factor to consider is throat hit. If you're a former smoker and want to experience the sensation of inhaling smoke without the associated health risks, look for e-liquid flavors that contain additives such as capsaicin, menthol, cinnamon, and grain alcohol. Many vapers find that PG-heavy blends provide a more intense throat hit. For the closest experience to a tobacco cigarette, choose a 100 percent PG blend in either a tobacco or menthol flavor. When trying a new brand or flavor, opt for a small bottle in case it's not for you. When you find your favorite e-juices, you can save money by purchasing larger 60-milliliter or 120-milliliter bottles. You can also find sampler packs that combine a few different flavors from one brand. If you need further help determining whether to use vape juices that contain PG, VG, or a blend of the two, speak with the staff at your favorite local vape shop. Many online retailers have a chat function that enables you to communicate directly with customer-service representatives. These experienced individuals can help you narrow down the overwhelming vape juice selection to find the best blends for your needs. Like what you just read? Consider clicking one of the affiliate links in this post or using the Vape Deals page on the site to make your next purchase. You get the chance to buy products (at a discount) from great companies, and we get a small commission when you use these links -- which helps keep the lights on and pay for more great content. It's a win-win!