Hi - I'm very much older than you are and my hair is 2c/3a so I'm not sure how similar our hair is, but here's my input. I use L'Oreal Preference and I grayed young so I've been dying my hair since I was in my 20's.

I try to use a combo protein/deep treatment a few days in advance of using the color which I think makes the hair stronger and less prone to damage from the dye.

After using the dye I either use the conditioner with cones that comes with it or Curl Junkie Curl Rehab. The Curl Junkie is expensive otherwise I would use it exclusively because I think it leaves my hair in better shape than the conditioner that comes in the Preference box - it is terrific stuff and doesn't have cones, so, yes, I'm sure you can use a cone free conditioner and get excellent results.

If you find one that isn't very expensive that works great for you, please post back!
2/c Coarse hair med. density.
Highly porous. Color over grey.
I love all the Curl Junkie products. Still experimenting with gels and curl creams. Still hoping for 2nd day hair....
Every day is a gift