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 and some 3A. Modified CG.
Highly porous. Color over grey.
Best 1st day method: Super Soaker
Protein treatment HG: Curl Junkie Repair Me
Conditioners: Curl Junkie Beauticurls Strengthening Conditioner,
Deep condish: Curl Junkie Curl Rehab
Stylers:Curl Junkie CCCC or CCCL
in combo with a gel, usually KCCC
Trying Curl Keeper - still experimenting
Every day is a gift