We Tried It: The Gel Mani at Valley N.Y.C.

05/23/2013 at 04:30 PM ET

Valley Gel ManiCourtesy of Brittany Talarico

What it is: The mother of all manicures

Who tried it: Brittany Talarico, PEOPLE.com Associate Style Editor

Why she did it: Because a pic of a fresh paint job is a “heart” magnet on Instagram

How crazy is it on a scale from one to Kim Kardashian’s blood facial? We give it a 3 since it’s completely painless, but it takes over an hour to complete (and some serious decision making)

RELATED PHOTOS: Check out even more amazing reader-submitted nail art here!

Confession time: I’m a total mani-ac. Nothing gives me more of a rush than a fresh coat of pretty polish on my beds, and when I heard about the masterminds at Valley Nails in N.Y.C. I couldn’t wait to schedule an appointment.

When it comes to designs, nothing is off the table. You can bring in a picture of your French bulldog Benny and one of the manicurists will manage to fit his cute little mug (pointy ears and all) on to your tiny pinky finger. These ladies are PROS.

And because the possibilities are literally infinite, choosing just one can be a little intimidating. Luckily the salon’s Instagram account is packed with inspiration, and as soon as you walk in for an appointment you’re greeted with an iPad containing a slide show of a bajillion (give or take a few) different options. (Check out this paper airplane masterpiece!)

On my first trip, I opted for a neutral base coat with a white chevron pattern on a few nails, plus a studded middle finger (I was headed to Austin and feeling a little sassy). And I was so entraced by watching them work their magic, I found myself agreeing to add gold gems to one of my thumbs.

For my second visit, I chose a reverse coral-and-white French, which I have to admit is my favorite. The bright color is perfect for the season and the white adds a fun color-blocking vibe.

THE VERDICT: I can’t wait to go back again … and again. The gel lasts about three weeks which makes the price (ranging from $40 to $90 depending on the level of design) worth it. My reverse French was a huge hit at the bridal shower I went to last weekend, and I’m still obsessing over the precision of that chevron pattern. The one thing you may encounter: nail envy. The place is always packed (be sure to call two weeks before a special occasion if you want to get in) and everyone is getting such cool things done, which makes you second guess your decision. But the good thing is you’re not getting a tattoo. Nothing is permanent. And the crowd there is so nice, so no matter what you choose you will get some obligatory “ooohhhs” and “ahhhhhs.”

Don’t forget to share your DIY manis with us and tell us — what designs are you dying to try?

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