To use re:coil I would say the following things:
1: only use a small amount. I use about a nickel sized about for my hair that is about 4 inches below my shoulders.
2: Emulsify between your hands really well before applying (I smooth over my hair and then scrunch, I don't rake it in) (BTW, I just read your post again and saw that you already knew these two things, Sorry!)
3: As for over top, I use mousse, but you can use a gel, I find that re:coil does not have the hold I need, so I definitely need somehing over it!
2c or 3a Cut most of my hair off in July '12 and am working on regrowing it.