What’s Really in Your E-Liquid?

What’s Really in Your E-Liquid?

What’s Really in Your E-Liquid? What Are The Ingredients Of E-Liquid? Find out how vape juice is made, what ingredients are used and how to choose your e-liquid. E-liquid is a fluid used in an electronic device known as a vaporizer, to create a flavored vapor inhaled by users. It contains a base, water, flavors and nicotine. The base, which gives the e-liquid its consistency, is composed of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). The information on what makes up e-liquid is always listed on product labels, make sure to check the packaging for this information at time of purchase. Let’s have a closer look at each of these ingredients and get a better understanding of their role in the e-liquid.

The Base

As explained above, the base gives the e-liquid its consistency or, in other words, its thickness. You may have seen e-liquids that are thin and runny and some that are thick and sticky; these differences in consistency are brought about by two common ingredients – propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG). 
Vegetable glycerin or glycerol is an odorless, clear liquid produced from plant oils that is thick and a little sweet to the taste. Its sweet taste has some effect on the quality of vapor produced making it a good candidate for e-liquid. The high viscosity of VG causes e-liquid to adhere to the inside of the cartridge or tank in a vaporizer; this makes cleaning vape tanks a hustle and may be messy for the user when refilling the tank. The thicker the e-liquid the less it is absorbed by the wick when vaping thus VG’s thickness helps reduce the e-liquid’s depletion. Manufacturers prefer to have a mix of VG and PG in the base, this is because the latter is thin and runny, neutralizing the high viscosity of the former. 

Many vaporizers use propylene glycol as the main ingredient of the base. It is a synthetic organic compound developed in a laboratory and used in many applications including as a preservative in foods and drinks, as the main ingredient in smoke machines, as a solvent in medicine and as a main ingredient in hair and skin products. Due to its odorless and tasteless nature, PG has no effect on the flavor of the vapor produced in a vaporizer, also, its thin and runny state makes it easier to handle and clean off the tank. Some researchers claim that since it is easier to produce propylene glycol in a laboratory, it is cheaper to obtain when compared with vegetable glycerin. 

Most manufacturers prefer to use a combination of both ingredients in the base since each compliments the other; PG is a humectant meaning it has a moistening effect while VG has a more drying effect, this means that vapors produced from vegetable glycerin e-liquids tend to feel dry in the throat while their counterparts leave a moist feeling in the throat, almost similar to what cigarette smoke feels like. While PG is absorbed faster by the wick because it is thin, VG tends to be less absorbent thus limiting how much is utilized per puff; a combination of the two ingredients creates the ideal consistency for e-liquids.

Distilled Water

Vaporizers that utilize VG as the sole ingredient in the base require water to make it less viscous and more absorbent. Distilled water is preferred because it is free from minerals and other impurities that might affect the quality of the vapor. Additionally, this mixture is easier to handle, does not clog the coils and wick and makes cleaning the vaporizer tank a lot easier. Care has to be taken when combining the main ingredients with distilled water to ensure the right consistency of the e-liquid is achieved.


Extracted from tobacco leaves, nicotine is an addictive stimulant that acts as an upper or antidepressant in the nervous system. Contrary to popular belief, nicotine, which naturally occurs in many other vegetables like potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes, is not carcinogenic and has not been linked to cancer. It is added to e-liquid for users who suffer from addiction and are using vapes as a substitute for tobacco cigarettes. However, not all e-liquids contain nicotine, there are several nicotine free versions available.


Some e-liquids use a chemical known as cannabidiol, an extract of cannabis that is not intoxicating but has a slight effect on anxiety. This is an optional additive in e-liquids and may not be common amongst vapers; most users prefer the more potent THC extract.


The wide variety of sweet, sour, fruity, musky and other flavors that vapors contain, makes this the most crucial ingredient in its growing popularity. In a bid to outdo each other, manufacturers continue to develop a wide array of flavors to keep their consumers coming back for more. The flavors used in e-liquids consist of naturally occurring food-grade additives, some of which include;

  • Rose oil – extracted from rose flowers 
  • Beta-lonone – a fragrance found in essential oils
  • Linalool – extracted from flowers and spices
  • Vanillin – extracted from vanilla pods
  • Acetylpyrazine – extracted from meats, nuts and seeds
  • Malic acid – natural acid that promotes the pleasant sour taste in fruits
  • Trimethylpyrazine – extracted from cereals

In conclusion, e-liquids contain, mostly, safe natural ingredients that have not been proven to have any negative health effects on users, except addiction. Some users have however reported to experience allergic reactions in their throats and respiratory passages that may be caused by vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and certain flavors; this is however a case to case issue and does not affect all vape users. Cloud chasing, a growing phenomenon amongst vapers, is made more enjoyable by the thickness of the vapor, VG is the main ingredient in e-liquids that promotes the thickness of the smoke clouds.

If you are an active vaper or considering taking up vaping, it is important that you understand what you are putting in your lungs. Although vaping has been referred to as the safest tobacco harm reduction (THR) technique by many health professionals, it is prudent to understand that inhaling anything other than clean natural air will, in one way or the other, have some effects on your lungs.

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