This topic tends to have a bad rep when it comes to skincare. That's mainly down to how western companies have labelled and marketed toners.
According to western companies, toners are there to remove the last remains of your makeup (*cough* that's your cleanser's job, and if it's not doing the job, then you need a new cleanser *cough*), kill bacteria with an incredibly high alcohol content *cringe*, and shrink your pores.
Ok, now let me explain what your toner actually SHOULD be doing.
1) Exfoliate: I would go as far as to say that this is the main purpose of a toner. These days, thanks to the beloved Caroline Hirons, they are now usually referred to as Acid Toners. Toners use a percentage of an acid to chemically exfoliate your skin. Think of it as your toner eating up all the dead skin cells, leaving fresh new skin. This is a far superior method of exfoliation, especially when compared to physical exfoliation (aka scrubs). Scrubs are 90% of the time too harsh for our skin, and even has the capabilities of irritating it and giving us broken capillaries.
There are 2 kinds of chemical exfoliant toners: AHA's (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHA's (beta hydroxy acid). The most common types of AHA's are Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Citric Acid, and for BHA's it's Salicylic Acid. BHA's are generally preferred for people with problematic skin, and AHA's for people with sun damage and dry skin. However, they both work similarly and don't differ significantly. They both do the same job. Personally, I like and use both. Though I ever so slightly prefer AHA. However, some people with sensitive skin sometimes find that AHA's can be too harsh for their skin, so if you're one of them then just stick to BHA's.
Perks of using a chemical exfoliant toner: prevents and helps clear up break outs, helps other products (like serums) penetrate better, quickens the rate of cell turnover, decreases fine lines, and potentially stimulates collagen production.
2) Hydrate: ironic since your old school toners are notorious for drying out your skin. There are also now toners that add some moisture to your skin, as well as balance the ph level.
The number one thing to avoid when looking for a new toner: alcohol or alcohol denat. Old school toners are incredibly high in alcohol, usually even the second ingredient on the list. Now, would you apply Vodka or Rubbing Alcohol all over your face? No?? Then don't use these kind of toners!! A famous example of these kind of horrible products would be Clinique's Clarifying Lotion (step #2 in their well-known 3 step system). Products like these WILL ruin your skin. If your skin is feeling tight and dry after using it, or even burning, that does not mean it's working! That means it's harming your skin. Case closed.
And if you use these kind of toners because you have oily skin, and you like them because they remove all oils from your face, you're essentially just fighting fire with fire. Constantly stripping all oils from your face will only drive your skin into overdrive as it tries extra hard to reproduce those oils that you just stripped, i.e. your skin will only become oilier in the long-run.
Now that we've cleared that all up, here are some product recommendations! all recommendations are linked.
1) Benton Aloe BHA Toner ($22)
2) Clinique Mild Clarifying Lotion ($16), Side Note: though it's by Clinique, this toner of theirs is 100% alcohol-free! it's a very mild BHA toner.
3) First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads ($20 for mini, $30 for full size), AHA toner.
4) Ole Henriksen Invigorating Night Treatment ($45), AHA toner.