What's inside my e-liquid?

Us vapers use e-liquids every day, but have you ever wondered what ingredients there are in your favourite e-liquids? We’re taking a look at what’s inside e-liquids, and how they are tested before they make it to the shelves.

Inside your e-liquid

E-liquids contain very few ingredients, the main two being VG and PG.
VG stands for vegetable glycerin and is a common ingredient in food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, often found in things like marshmallows and mustard. VG has a thick consistency and is responsible for producing the vapour which is inhaled when using an e-cigarette. The higher the VG content in an e-liquid, the more vapour is produced.

PG stands for propylene glycol, which has a thin consistency similar to water, and is used as an additive in many food and cosmetic products. PG is used in e-liquids as the carrier for flavourings, to help keep the flavour consistent throughout the e-liquid.

Both VG and PG are diluents, substances used to dilute the overall composition. Although VG and PG make up the bulk of an e-liquid, they are relatively flavourless and are used to dilute the flavourings and nicotine into a vapeable formula.

Arguably the most important ingredient is the flavouring, letting you enjoy countless different tastes that help you find the flavour you love. Natural flavourings contain no artificial ingredients, sweeteners or additives, and the flavourings used in e-liquids are all food grade and approved and tested by the MHRA to ensure they’re safe for use. In most e-liquids, multiple different flavours are carefully mixed together to create the exact flavour.

Depending on the flavour, flavourings usually make up 5 – 20% of the overall e-liquid, as they need to be diluted with VG and PG to produce a pleasant taste. Alone, they are much too concentrated and would not taste good or be appropriate to vape.

The final ingredient is nicotine, although this is optional as e-liquids can be purchased both with or without nicotine.

Nicotine is a naturally occurring substance found in some of the plants in the Solanaceae family. This not only includes the tobacco plant, but many others such as aubergines and tomatoes. The tobacco plant is the richest source of nicotine, containing levels ranging from 8 – 14%.

Nicotine has a stimulant effect similar to that of caffeine and is an addictive substance but is not responsible for causing any forms of cancer. Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes and is used in e-liquids to help those who are making the switch from smoking to vaping transition to a less harmful source of nicotine.

Nicotine is extracted from the tobacco leaf through a chemical process which results in a pure, liquid form of nicotine. This liquid form is known as freebase nicotine and is the most common form of nicotine found in e-liquids. It is an alkaline with a pH of around 8 and the alkaline nature is responsible for the ‘throat hit’ that many vapers associate with freebase nicotine e-liquids.

However, in the last couple of years nicotine salt e-liquids have become popular as an alternative to freebase. These are made by adding an acid to freebase nicotine, which removes the nicotine salts and results in a form of nicotine with a pH of between 5 – 6. Nic salts are known for having a smoother inhale even at high nicotine strengths and absorbing quickly into the blood stream to satisfy cravings fast.