Have you tried any curl cremes? They don't make hair hard. Curl Junkie makes a good one - CCCL.

If you find it doesn't give you enough hold, you could put a little gel on top, but it still won't be as crunchy as using gel by itself.

Please post back and let us know how you solved this issue.
2/c. Coarse hair med. density.
Protein sensitive but can use occasionally
Highly porous. Color over grey.
Best 1st day method: Smasters!
Stylers: Mix Curls in a Bottle into everything for shine. Terrible pj
Sometimes try roller sets or use a curling brush - classic glamor.
Every day is a gift