Protein makes my hair dry out, when my hair is dehydrated it refuses to clump, can go both poufy and straight, it's usually a couple of washes before it recovers a bit. I still do them because my hair is damaged/ porous but I have to follow with a deep treatment. For me coconut oil with sugar syrup (can use honey) is giving me the best curl and bounce.

Maybe try a curl cream or make an Ecostyler custard (gel plus an oil, sometimes plus aloe vera)? These should be sticky yet more hydrating than just gel. Have you tried the Supersoaker Method for clumps?

Vinegar can be drying if used regularly, really what is working is likely the low pH, if that is what your hair responds to maybe look at the pH of your conditioning products instead.
Originally Posted by Firefox7275
I feel like it's clumping ok, and even curling fine, but the dry frizz over top (which I can't say isn't from touching it too much trying to even get product in) seems to mask what could be nice curls, and they do look dry. That's interesting what you say about still using protein but it taking a few washes to really look better. That might be my case too.

I will look into those types of product... I have been slowly realizing I don't like gel and wondering what to try next. Tried supersoaker before and it didn't turn out. It make a mess of my hair and still broke up my curls.

I am trying not to use acv too often, been seeing if I can get away with a 2-3 times a week max, but I need to find something that will give me good hair days between those times too. I am still having to wash most days because haven't gotten it down enough yet to get 2nd day hair often.