Hi Joanna, IPL is definately a very effective way of permanently removing/reducing hair.
With regard to your patch test; it would be interesting to know what you were told by the salon/clinic that you visited.
A patch test is mainly used to give the practitoner or operator a guide as to your skin sensitivity, and your reaction to the settings that they have used. It is very difficult to make an assessment of how well the treatment will work for you after only one application. This is because IPL or Laser works on a gradual reduction/removal basis. You will need to have a minimum course of treatments - usually at least 5-6 - to get a reasonable result.
Hair responds best to this type of treatment when it is in the 'active' or Anagen phase of growth. It is true that the hairs (or rather the follicles that produce the hairs) that are in the other 2 main stages of growth can be affected by the treatment, however, they will still produce hair, albeit weaker hairs, until they have reached the Anagen phase, which is why spaced, repeated treatments are the best way to approach IPL or Laser for hair removal/reduction.
In my experience of operating with an IPL system, most clients will notice a change after one application/treatment, however, this is not always the case. Each person is different, and therefore I am careful to explain that they may not notice a change until they have had 2 or more applications.
The difficulty is that hair removal is not an exact science; even with all the technology that is available, we will sometimes experience disappointing results due to factors such as hormonal imbalances or medications.
It is generally accepted that patients with darker hair and paler skins will be the best candidates for this type of treatment, as more of the light will be absorbed by the pigments in the follicles, and the blood pigments that supply the follicles. Therefore, your hair and skin colours would suggest that this type of treatment would be successful for you.
I hope that you will not be discouraged by your experience, and perhaps seek further advice from a different practitoner, so that you get a balanced view of how IPL would work for you.