My hair doesn't care for gel, either--it's the chemicals. I use, what I call, jelly products. The gelatinous consistency without the chemicals.

Haircut is a must. You need to have your hair shaped, freshen the ends and get the right layering to "lighten" things up and allow your curls to form.
3a (Corkicelli), highlighted, fine, low porosity

HGs: Anything Sevi; Curly Kinks Satin Roots, Curlycue ReNew and Coil Jam; homemade FSG and okra gel; soap bars; UFD Curly Magic; Botanical Spirits Jellies, CJ Repair Me, Aloe Fix