Update. I tried experimenting with "Curls in a Bottle" again. This time I rinsed off a clumb of hair, applied the gel, scrunched the curl and let it dry. Sure enough, once the curl had tried there was weird looking residue all over that section of hair. The hold was awesome and my curl was nice and frizz free...but I can't bear the look of it up close.
I don't know what's happening...but this stuff definitely doesn't like being on my hair.